Review: “These Silent Woods” by Kimi Cunningham Grant

these silent woods book cover from goodreads, background image from jeremy perkins on unsplash
Original background cover photo credit: Jeremy Perkins on Unsplash

Something wrong, I can feel it: a sting prickling the skin and stitching inward.

These Silent Woods, Chapter 1 opening

Author: Kimi Cunningham Grant
Publication Date: November 16th 2021
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Genre: Thriller
Find it on: Goodreads

Synopsis

No electricity, no family, no connection to the outside world. For eight years, Cooper and his young daughter, Finch, have lived in isolation in a remote cabin in the northern Appalachian woods. And that’s exactly the way Cooper wants it, because he’s got a lot to hide. Finch has been raised on the books filling the cabin’s shelves and the beautiful but brutal code of life in the wilderness. But she’s starting to push back against the sheltered life Cooper has created for her—and he’s still haunted by the painful truth of what it took to get them there.

The only people who know they exist are a mysterious local hermit named Scotland, and Cooper’s old friend, Jake, who visits each winter to bring them food and supplies. But this year, Jake doesn’t show up, setting off an irreversible chain of events that reveals just how precarious their situation really is. Suddenly, the boundaries of their safe haven have blurred—and when a stranger wanders into their woods, Finch’s growing obsession with her could put them all in danger. After a shocking disappearance threatens to upend the only life Finch has ever known, Cooper is forced to decide whether to keep hiding—or finally face the sins of his past.

Vividly atmospheric and masterfully tense, These Silent Woods is a poignant story of survival, sacrifice, and how far a father will go when faced with losing it all. 

From Goodreads

Review

Book Content Warnings: PTSD, war, death of partner, miscarriage, death of parent, car accident, abortion, child protective services, panic attack, infidelity

These Silent Woods by Kimmi Cunningham Grant is an immersive story of survival and family. Written in first person and set in an isolated cabin deep in the woods, readers feel the full atmospheric weight of the wilderness when a family friend fails to make their yearly provisions drop off. Main character Cooper must stretch their current rations and chance a venture into public. Tensions deepen as Cooper realizes their spying neighbor Scotland holds an unnerving grasp of their family’s secret background, and daughter Finch’s youthful curiosity further conspires to threaten risk of discovery. This touching and gripping story was a fast, memorable read.

Let it suffice for me to say this: sometimes bad things happen and you’re unprepared and you make choices that seem good to you at the time, and then you look back and wish there were things you could undo, but you can’t, and that’s that.

These Silent Woods, p9

I was a huge fan of the character work in this story. Main character Cooper is a kind single father with a sympathetic past now put in an unenviable position. He must straddle the desire to provide his daughter Finch with a secure future while at the same time keep them both hidden from his past. In alternating chapters readers glimpse his backstory to judge him for themselves. Meanwhile Finch is a charming, bright young woman outgrowing the confines of their hidden home. Inevitably their clashing desires cause heartache and later much more trouble. Their only neighbor is a mysterious old man named Scotland who stops by uninvited, appears to spy on the family, and vaguely threatens that he knows much more than he should. The situation is tenuous for Cooper especially, as young Finch is oblivious to their veiled posturing and adores their neighbor. From my perspective Scotland was bizarre and somewhat predatorial. The author kept me balanced on a pin wondering whether he’s a threat or concerned citizen.

With the first person point of view and casual writing style, reading their story felt like listening to a friend. It’s easy to empathize with Cooper’s aspirations and apprehensions, fret over their discovery, and feel overly protective of their little haven. While this is a low-action plot up until the end, the immersive environment and connection to these well-built characters made it a fast read. I’d highly recommend These Silent Woods as a surprisingly endearing suspense fiction.

…there is a word for such unmerited favor. That word is “grace.” The thing about grace is that you don’t deserve it. You can’t earn it. You can only accept it. Or not.

These Silent Woods, p264

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