Getting Better & Better: A Book Review — In the Heart of the Dark Wood


Well. If you would like to read a thoroughly captivating story and are willing to do NOTHING else for about 24 hours, have I got the book for you.

This is the third in what I hope will be a limitless series of stories about Mattingly, a small town on the edge of the dark woods. And each one has gotten progressively more entrancing and intriguing. You can start with number one (reviewed here — and this is the book where the recurring phrase/idea “God has sharp edges” first appears) or number two (check it out here) or with this amazing story. 374 is a lot of pages, but this book is the very definition of ‘page-turner’ — and I mean that in the very best way.

This is a story about two children who are far more grown-up than many adults I’ve met. Allie is on a pilgrimage, ostensibly to find a plastic nativity piece that has blown away in a storm and she asks her best friend, Zach, to go with her.

But Allie is searching for far more than a Mary statue; she is looking for her mother, who disappeared in a gigantic windstorm almost two years before. And Allie has never been the same since. During the time that they are looking, all kinds of fascinating things happen to these kids. Both of these kids. They learn about life, they learn about fear, they learn about themselves.

And, as extra incentive for you, the story is set during the week before Christmas. I tell you, this is the PERFECT book for you to read (You can click here to order your own copy.)


How often do you read a novel with this many dog-ears? With language that is rich and evocative, characters that are fully fleshed out and easily accessed, and a plot line marked with just enough magic to make it memorable, this is one grand adventure. I promise you will read it from beginning to end as fast as you can and then, breathe a deep sigh of satisfaction when you turn that last page.

Here are just a few samples of beautiful description, thought-provoking reflection and sometimes astounding insight into the deepest things in life: faith, family, love:

“Maybe we just gotta believe,” Zach said.
“How do we do that?”
“I don’t know. Believing’s not something you do. It’s something you are.” (pg. 80)

“There was a strange peace to that part of the woods, almost a gentle pulsing, and Allie let the stillness fill the cracks inside her.” (pg. 86)

Allie, on her estrangement from God since her mama’s disappearance: “I think God’s more like the moon, just sitting up there in the sky, watching what all’s going on. This is just a TV show to Him. . . I figure it’s best to ignore Him. Maybe then, He’ll ignore me. God finds out Momma sent word, He’ll do all He can to stop me.” (pgs. 162-163)

“As as Zach ran, he prayed that he didn’t have to wear a hat to be a man, that instead it meant doing for others even what you most feared. Not because he was strong and brave, but because he loved. Because in the end, love is the most powerful magic of all.” (pg. 300)

And to end this little jaunt through those pages, this last one, which is a favorite of mine:

“Everyone was lost somehow, turned around in their own darkwood, looking for something that would help them to go on. Everyone just wanted to find their way home.” (pg. 237)

Reading this wonderful, wonderful story will help you get there. 

I can hardly wait for the next installment!


I received an advance copy of this book and was asked to write an honest review. This is me, being honest!


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  1. Absolutely LOVE the pic of all the dog-eared pages. There are so many memorable moments in this book.

    • This is just the best story!!! I truly am counting on it continuing for a long, long time. Billy just gets better and better, I swear.