Synopses & Reviews
Set in the near-future, Into the Forest
is a powerfully imagined novel that focuses on the relationship between two teenage sisters living alone in their Northern California forest home.
Over 30 miles from the nearest town, and several miles away from their nearest neighbor, Nell and Eva struggle to survive as society begins to decay and collapse around them. No single event precedes society's fall. There is talk of a war overseas and upheaval in Congress, but it still comes as a shock when the electricity runs out and gas is nowhere to be found. The sisters consume the resources left in the house, waiting for the power to return. Their arrival into adulthood, however, forces them to reexamine their place in the world and their relationship to the land and each other.
Reminiscent of Margaret Atwood's A Handmaid's Tale, Into the Forest is a mesmerizing and thought-provoking novel of hope and despair set in a frighteningly plausible near-future America.
"[M]esmerizing....Hegland's sweet and sadly elegiac tale is an engrossing coming-of-age adventure." Whitney Scott, Booklist
"[A] beautifully written and often profoundly moving novel." San Francisco Chronicle
"A work of extraordinary power, insight and lyricism, Into the Forest is both an urgent warning and a passionate celebration of life and love." Riane Eisler, author of The Chalice and the Blade
"From the first page, the sense of crisis and the lucid, honest voice of the...narrator pull the reader in....A truly admirable addition to a genre defined by the very high standards of George Orwell's 1984." Publishers Weekly
"This beautifully written story captures the essential nature of the sister bond: the fierce struggle to be true to one's own self, only to learn that true strength comes from what they are able to share together." Carol Saline, co-author of Sisters
"Jean Hegland's sense of character is firm, warm, and wise....[A] fine first novel." John Keeble, author of Yellowfish
This deeply felt story of two sisters struggling to survive amid the collapse of technology and society is at once a classic tale of mythic proportions--and a modern myth with a timely message. "Beautifully written and often profoundly moving".--"San Francisco Chronicle".
About the Author
Jean Hegland is the author of The Life Within: Celebration of a Pregnancy.
She lives with her husband and three children in northern California on fifty-five acres of second-growth forest. She is at work on her next novel, which explores the issues of motherhood.
From the Hardcover edition.
Reading Group Guide
1) Into The Forest
seems to convey that the stripped-down life of a hunter-gatherer would be better for us as a species. What Nell and Eva do is clearly right for them. Would it be right for people in general? For women? Is it a tenable ideal for any but the very young, very fit, and very adaptable?
2) Does the lifestyle the sisters adopt in Into The Forest imply or require an abandonment of the whole notion of "advanced civilization?"
3) The Women's Review of Books said of Into The Forest: "Cultural trauma forces the heroines to inhabit and regard their world in radical new ways, [as] recipients of wisdom they did not want but are better off for having." Do you agree with this? Why or why not?
4) How would you answer the question raised by this novel and posed in The Sunday Oregonian: "Where are we heading, and do we know how to survive with our humanity intact if we continue in this direction?"
5) Before razing the house in which they had spent their entire lives and turning to the forest for all their necessities, Nell chooses three books to take with her: Native Plants of Northern California for Eva since it may have already saved her life; a book of stories of those who had lived in the forest for Burl; and the encyclopedia's index for herself. In choosing the index she says, "I could not save all the stories, could not hope to preserve all the information—that was too vast, too disparate, perhaps even too dangerous. But I could take the encyclopedia's index, could try to keep that master list of all that had once been made or told or understood." If you could take only one item from your current existence into the future, and that one item was a book, what would you choose and why? Why do you think that Hegland would choose to describe the retaining of information as "too dangerous?"
6) Some of the most poignant moments of the story are found in minor details. Reading Into The Forest will forever change the way you think about a teabag, a scrap of paper, a metronome, an acorn, or a chocolate kiss candy. It will forever change your thinking about dreams and days of the week. Which of these affected you most? What other examples struck your sensibilities?
7) Above all, Into The Forest is a story about the boundaries and possibilities of sisterhood. Do you feel a comparable story could have been written about a relationship between a brother and sister or two brothers?
8) What kind of childhood do you think Eva's baby will have? If technology and society were to return to advanced states, how might the child adapt to leaving the forest?
9) If your "technologically-based" lifestyle were to evolve into a "nature-based" lifestyle, how do you think you would survive? What would you enjoy? What conveniences would you most miss?