Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Fiction Review: Forest Dark

Last month, I listened to Forest Dark by Nicole Krauss on audio. I really loved Krauss' earlier novel, The History of Love, which has two disparate stories/characters that eventually come together in a story about (you guessed it) love. I also read her next novel, Great House, a finalist for the National Book Award, which was also good, though it felt a bit too bleak for my tastes.


Forest Dark follows a similar approach as those earlier novels, with two separate narratives, with just a location in common between them. Sixty-six-year-old Epstein was very successful and wealthy in New York. Recently, though, since retiring, divorcing his wife, and the death of his parents, he has been giving away his money, alarming his children and his estate lawyer. Now, Epstein has traveled to Israel, staying at the Tel Aviv Hilton, to try to find a way to honor his parents' memory. While there, he meets a rabbi who insists that Epstein is a descendant of King David, and he gets involved in a film being made by the rabbi’s daughter about David’s life.


In an alternate storyline, a successful female novelist has writer's block, so she leaves her husband and children behind to travel to Tel Aviv, where she also stays at the Hilton. She has stayed there every summer of her life, and she has a vague idea to set her next novel there. She is hoping the surroundings will get her writing again. While there, she gets involved with a legend/rumor that Kafka did not die as reported but moved to Israel where he recovered and lived out his life, and she ends up diving deep into research on the issue.


I kept expecting these two stories to come together, but they never do. They are just parallel stories both featuring Americans and set in Israel. The whole thing was quite complex. It’s the kind of book that emphasizes the characters’ inner lives, even though things do happen and there are some unexpected twists in both stories. I listened to it on audio, with a single narrator. Some chapters kept me interested and engaged, and others moved a bit slowly for me. The book is very much focused on Jewish culture and history, so I learned a lot. I know the critics love Kraus’ novels (this one was voted Best of 2017 by at least 11 different publications), but that second one, The History of Love, is still my favorite.

304 pages, Harper

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. My review is my own opinion and is not influenced by my relationship with the publisher or author.


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Listen to a sample of the audiobook here and/or download it from Audible.


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  1. Hmmm. Not sure this one would work for me. Complex inner thoughts of characters wouldn't be my first choice for a read right now.

    1. I hear ya. I'm reading a thriller now!