In the Heart of the Dark Wood


 Allie Granderson has never found closure after her mother vanished except for one pink tennis shoe during the tornado that nearly destroyed their hometown of Mattingly. Obsessed with a toy compass and a Nativity yard figure, Allie is mostly lost with no one left but her father who regularly loses himself in a bottle. A series of unusual events just days before Christmas leads Allie and her best friend Zach on a quest to find her mother but they actually find themselves lost in the middle of a dark and mysterious wood. In those woods, the pair face unimagined fears and possible death as Allie’s determination to find her mother at times borders on madness.

I fear that I do not have adequate words to express what I thought and/or felt about “In the Heart of the Dark Wood “. Coffey’s genius with words and lyrical style are a pleasure to read. I found myself amazed at how well he was able to get into the minds of the children and relate their inner thoughts on what was going on in their lives, especially with Allie’s inauguration into womanhood. At times it seemed that neither of the children would survive their dangerous experience and I almost feared turning to the next page.

All-in-all, “In the Heart of the Dark Wood” was a superlative reading experience that will probably enter my mind at odd times in the future. I liked how such a horrendous experience ended up with some very positive results and how both Allie and Zach came away with wisdom and understanding that many adults never find.

This book was provided for review by the BookLook Blogger Program of Harper Collins Christian Publishing.


A motherless girl hungry for hope . . . and the dream that could be leading her astray.

Almost two years have passed since twelve year-old Allie Granderson’s beloved mother Mary disappeared into the wild tornado winds. Her body has never been found. God may have spilled out his vengeance on all of Mattingly that day—but it was Allie’s momma who got swept away.

Allie clings to memories of her mother, just as she clings to the broken compass she left behind, the makeshift Nativity scene assembled in Allie’s front yard, and to her best friend, Zach. But even with Zach at her side, the compass tied to her wrist, and the Nativity characters just a glimpse out the window, Allie cannot help but feel lost in all the growing up that must get done.

When the Holy Mother disappears from the yard one morning, Allie’s bewilderment is checked only by the sudden movement of her mother’s compass. Yet the compass isn’t pointing north but east . . . into the inky forest on the outskirts of Mattingly.

Following the needle, Allie and Zach leave the city pavement behind and push into the line of trees edging on the Virginia hill country. For Allie, the journey is more than a ghost hunt: she is rejoining the mother she lost—and finding herself with each step deeper into the heart of the darkest woods she’s ever seen.

Brimming with lyrical prose and unexpected discoveries, In the Heart of the Dark Wood illustrates the steep transition we all must undergo—the moment we shed our child-like selves and step into the strange territory of adulthood.


Billy CoffeyBilly Coffey’s critically acclaimed books combine rural Southern charm with a vision far beyond the ordinary. He is a regular contributor to several publications, where he writes about faith and life. Billy lives with his wife and two children in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.