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2.9 out of 5 stars13
2.9 out of 5 stars
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This is a difficult book to write about as I imagine many people will have varied ideas about it's content. A young, frail and damaged runaway girl Ann Holmes fetches up in the depressed previously busy logging area of North Fork and makes a little way of life for herself, alongside others, living on the Camp ground, scavenging for mushrooms, ranging the devastated forests. She becomes friends with bright and breezy, sassy Carolyn who takes her under her wing. Other inhabitants of this woebegone town are Tom Cross, the one time logger, now a prison guard nearby, now separated from his family which includes his son who is paralysed after an accident out in the woods, and more importantly Father Collins, the unlikely priest who also lives in a trailer. He is highly educated, thoughtful and tortured with the difficulties of his calling.

Written in a fast and jumpy fashion with quick wit and repartee this book is formed around the visions experienced by Ann in her fevered, ill and dangerous state. Whether you take her seriously or dismiss the visions immediately the story carries you along with the mounting excitement and hope that her mission gathers up. The desperate need for others to help her carry out the instructions of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the driving force that grabs the community and changes life in that place forever. Father Collins keeps a cool head and manfully stands up to the Grand Inquisitor type older priest who arrives to check her out.

Unusual in content with a great deal of the Catholic faith and creed acted out for the reader this is a heavier weight read. Personally I ground through it rather although the end was very clever indeed and made the struggle through worthwhile.
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on 6 October 2006
Far and away the most enjoyable and engaging element David Guterson books is how evocatively he describes the local flora and landscapes. The story itself is powerful but I felt it cut off too suddenly, or worked up too fast, as if he didn't quite know where he was going with it, or didnt trust his material to last. Would maybe have been better as a short story, is certainly vivid enough.
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on 6 November 2007
I can remember enjoying this book up to about the halfway point, after which it became a struggle. The characters are developed well, but I did not find myself having much of an affinity for Ann, the young runaway despite the harrowing upbringing she had suffered. Perhaps this was the intention of Guterson. She does just seem to be in the book as a catalyst figure. For example, Tom is a more interesting and rounded character, and it is him as the broken man that finds in Ann's visions a last chance for redemption for both himself and his son who is paralyzed.
Another point of interest is the way that Guterson portrays the mass hysteria that religious visions have created around the world over the years. Guterson does this wryly and there are a number of humorous turns of phrase when the visionaries legions of followers flock to North Fork.
This novel then is suspenseful and engaging enough (just)to see it through its 300 + pages. However, like the views of other reviewers indicate, this novel may have worked better as a novella.
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on 16 May 2004
David Guterson is a man who rather asks questions than give the answers. In his third novel to-date, Our Lady of the Forest, he asks you to believe or not to believe. Or maybe he does not even go that far: he just urges the reader to consider the options, to look at it from both sides.
Ann Holmes, a teenage girl with a childhood of neglect and sexual abuse, tries to make a living by picking mushrooms in a gloomy Washington forest near Tacoma. One day she has a vision of the Holy Virgin who urges her to build a church in the woods, and within days her initial solitary experience - after a second and a third vision of Mary - swells to near mass-hysteria, spread by the internet.
Her cynical "friend" Carolyn tries to financially exploit these visions of Ann. The young priest of the isolated and derelict community is troubled more by Ann herself than by her experiences. Young guilt-ridden, unemployed and divorced-with-a-restraining-order Tom Cross sees in Ann a ray of hope to overturn his own desperate situation.
Guterson observes and describes these people's lives with accuracy and precision. He looks at events from different points of view, it is up to the reader to draw the overall picture - if that exists at all. There is humor and tragedy, compassion and cynicism. The bulk of the book spans a mere four days in November, but you feel like you know these people intimately. Likewise for the description of nature and the often absurd scenes that take place, the reader is not a bystander but feels he's taking part in it rather than just watching it.
Guterson does not write fast-food literature, but for those willing to take their time, slow down and question received truths, this book is great food for thought.
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on 11 January 2005
This is an interesting book dealing with the old themes of sin and redemption. It succeeds mainly due to the vulnerability of the central character, Anne Holmes. She has the mystical visions that draw an array of unsavoury characters into her orbit, and the reader is kept interested in the outcome. Shorter than his other books, Guterson writes with an urgency that keeps the pages turning, and does not avoid the difficult subject matter.
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on 28 May 2009
Having read and thoroughly enjoyed East of the Mountains, I was looking forward to this book very much. In EOTM I found Guterson's writing style to be satisfyingly sparse and poetic, with people and landscapes rendered very beautifully. But here the style is not so successful to my mind, and characters are paradoxically less interesting despite a greater effort to provide descriptions of characters' backstory and personality. Unfortunately I could not maintain enough motivation to complete it, although I may yet go back to finish it out of dogged determination! I still look forward to reading Snow Falling on Cedars, which I hope will have more in common with East of the Mountains than with this book.
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on 28 October 2013
Would somebody like to tell what language this book is written in?

I've looked up most of the words I don't understand & they're certainly not in my dictionary.

Dr. Colin Groves
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on 7 September 2009
Evocative, tense, moody, intriguing. Not by any means a feel good novel. Great stuff if you can handle that sort of thing.
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on 6 November 2014
I love this author, but not his best book.
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on 7 August 2008
I haven't read any of Guterson's other novels, but this story seemed interesting. I thought I would like the book. How wrong I was.

Guterson has been too lazy to use quotation marks on the dialog. Or perhaps he chose not to, for some unknown reason, perhaps just to be artsy. It serves no purpose other than to make the book almost unreadable. Half of the time you don't know if you're reading narration, dialog or characters' thoughts. This is very annoying but might have been forgivable if the book had had any other qualities, but unfortunately it's mostly pointless and very boring. The main reason I finished reading it was that it worked just as well as sleeping pills against my insomnia.

A boring story and a writing style that seems designed to frustrate the reader make "Our Lady of the Forest" a novel best avoided.
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