This coming of age story is chock full of symbolism, but the central theme is that faith in anything other than God is in vain. But Billy doesn’t sugar-coat the Almighty. He tells us God has sharp edges.
In the Heart of the Dark Wood is a hard read. Even though Billy guides his readers through the thoughts and emotions of his characters, he doesn’t allow us to sit back and relax. He wants our minds and senses fully engaged.
Mary Granderson, Allie’s mother and Marshall’s wife, was killed in The Storm described in When Mockingbirds Sing, but her body was never found. All that they buried was one of her pink shoes–not enough evidence to prove to Allie her mother was never coming back.
Before she died, Mary gave Allie a plastic compass to wear around her wrist. The needle never moved, until one traumatic event occurred. Then it led Allie into the woods.
Twelve-year-old Allie didn’t go alone. She brought her friend and classmate, Zach Barnett, with her. Zach knew how to survive in the wilderness because he frequently went with his father, and his dad had taught him everything about surviving. But by the end of the first day, the woods swallowed them, and they couldn’t find their way out.
Not that Allie wanted to go home. She was on a singular mission to find her mama. Zach shouldered the responsibility of keeping her safe. Sam, the Beagle pup, used his nose to guide them both.
The three went into the dark woods chock full of mission and courage. Five days later, they came out . . .