Review: Suddenly in the Depths of the Forest

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Suddenly in the Depths of the ForestSuddenly in the Depths of the Forest by Amos Oz
Published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children on March 1, 2011
Genres: Fairy Tales, Fantasy
Pages: 144
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
two-half-stars

In a gray and gloomy village, all of the animals—from dogs and cats to fish and snails—disappeared years before. No one talks about it and no one knows why, though everyone agrees that the village has been cursed. But when two children see a fish—a tiny one and just for a second—they become determined to unravel the mystery of where the animals have gone. And so they travel into the depths of the forest with that mission in mind, terrified and hopeful about what they may encounter.

From the internationally bestselling author Amos Oz, this is a hauntingly beautiful fable for both children and adults about tolerance, loneliness, denial, and remembrance.

Suddenly in the Depths of the Forest reads like a folk tale/fairy tale, and actually frequently reminded me of a number of other stories, although it never actually turned into any of them. At one point, there was a clear reference to Persephone, for example. I expected a bit more fairy tale than folk tale, I guess, so I was a bit surprised to find it without a neat ending tied up in a bow.

The story is well-written and clever. I love stories about animals, even in their absence. Can you imagine a town with nothing but people? Ugh! Of course, I wouldn’t mind getting rid of, say, all the cockroaches. What do they do anyway? And, given that I’m petrified of bees, I wouldn’t mind them being gone either, except for the flowers and the honey. But kittens and dogs and horses and goats and everything? And beef and chicken and pork?

What the story seems mostly to be about is not so much the absence of the animals, but the way people react to the lack. In some ways, this seems to be a study of human nature, of hubris and curiosity, of bravery and fear, of cruelty and friendship. Really, the story doesn’t fit into a particular box and is told in a somewhat atypical manner. I enjoyed this brief tale, and think it conveys an interesting message, although I think it’s up to the reader whether the message is positive or negative.

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