Top Tier (4 to 5 stars)

The Light Through The Leaves by Glendy Vanderah

As I read this novel, my heart and mind were inundated with every possible emotion; and as I turned the last page I felt total awe and immense satisfaction. Enthralling storytelling!

The Light Through the Leaves by Glendy Vanderah

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Picture this:
Ellis watches distractedly as her twin sons are catching tadpoles from the river that runs through Wild Wood – a forested area close to the trailer park she had grown up in. Her newborn daughter, Viola, lies tranquilly in her child carrier. This forest had always soothed Ellis’s aching spirit and had been her only refuge during her often brutal childhood.

But for once, her idyllic surroundings could do nothing to ease Ellis’s turbulent thoughts and anguished feelings of betrayal. She had just discovered that Jonah, her husband, was cheating on her with another woman.

The visit to the woods is destined to be a tragic disaster. Ellis’s twin boys act up, the incessant call of a raven and Ellis’s own wrought emotions cause her to forget that she had put her baby daughter’s car seat carrier onto the ground next to the van before dealing with one of her son’s tantrums. Ellis is horrified when, a mile into the return trip home, she notices that she had left the baby behind. Her worst fears are realized when she speeds back to the river, only to find that the carrier, and her baby, are gone.

Ellis’s world implodes. Sedatives, then alcohol, then a heavy mix of both, help at first. Ellis spends entire days in bed. Her boys are neglected, her husband is angry with her and her hateful mother-in-law (what a viper!) undermines Ellis at every turn. Ellis reaches a breaking point when she realizes that she is turning into her own neglectful, drug addicted mother. The media has judged Ellis harshly for her role in baby Viola’s disappearance. At the end of her mental and physical endurance, Ellis makes the only decision she believes is best for her boys. She must leave them before she causes them any more damage.

I was totally riveted! Is this just another abduction story? Far from it! The storytelling is told from two separate points of view, alternating between the two main characters of this story: Ellis and Daughter of Raven. We watch Ellis spiral into a drug and alcohol induced hell after she severs all ties with her old life and crisscrosses America, camping out in the wilds, trying to outrun her soul-destroying grief and her crushing feelings of guilt and self-blame.

Then we cut away to scenes of young Raven’s life with “Mama.” Raven has learned to adjust her behavior and her responses to avoid Mama’s dark or angry looks. Sometimes Mama falls into a fugue state and retreats into the Spirit World, so Raven has learned to be self-reliant and to fend for herself. Life is not all roses for sweet Raven, but we are comforted by the fact that Raven is allowed to wander at will through the forest surrounding their enormous rural Washington homestead.

She is taught to nurture her raven spirit and heed the signs of nature.

The tension in this story builds like Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, until everything unravels: chaos ensues and triggers a shattering crescendo. And don’t worry, the action is even more fraught and intense after the devastating reveal. (Also, there are no real spoilers here: all of the above occur in the first few chapters and are hinted at in the blurb. There is plenty of action yet to come!)

The ending is spectacular! I sighed with total satisfaction when I finished this one. Ellis was such a strong, heroic woman: I don’t think I could have born half of her sorrows. And Keith!!!! I want a park ranger like him for my very own! This book delivered on every level and touched every emotion, and yes, you will find yourself laughing out loud at River’s very provoking behavior!

Glendy Vanderah, you did it again: you wrote another beautiful, unforgettable story that left me incredibly moved and hopeful. Applause, Applause!
Go on: get up and take a bow! You earned it: 10 out of 5 stars for this precious gem! Highly, highly recommended!
(My thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.)

View all my reviews

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