Bigfoot, book review, horror

The Thing in the Woods by Gary Frank

Sometimes I wish books came with RiffTrax (or the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 treatment). This book would sure be a lot of fun to riff.

Rich and his wife Kara are heading out to a cabin in the woods for a long weekend. 30 years ago, 8 year old Rich spent his last happy time with his father, his best friend Max, and a whole mess of scouts in the very same cabins and he’s eager to recapture that joyful summer (which ended suddenly with a tragic disappearance of one of the children).

Joining them for the long weekend is Kara’s sister, Allison, who is married to Max. Allison hasn’t been herself recently, and Kara hopes to find out what’s bothering her over the weekend.

After an ominous warning about the wild man in the woods from a harbinger in the local gas station, Rich settles into the cabin in the campsite. It’s not long before strange smells and sounds spook the two couples, and what’s with the grumpy couple in the next cabin?

What I liked about this book was the presence of Bigfoot in New Jersey. All the classic Bigfoot elements are there – strong odor, tree knocking, communicating through strange sounds, moving as if teleporting, throwing things, fading in and out of sight among the trees, structures built in the woods, and strong family bonds.

I liked the story from the gas station attendant, as well as the disappearance of the child when Rich was a kid, and I wish there had been a call back to that.

There is also a hint at the theme of taking responsibility for your actions and the role of justice that appears at the end of the book, which could have really improved the book if it had been woven through from the start.

I appreciate that there was an effort made to give depth to the characters. Rich has a drinking problem, and Max has anger issues. If the writing wasn’t so ham fisted, this could have led to some interesting character interactions.

Unfortunately, this book is filled with unrealistic dialogue and behavior, bizarre scenes, repetition, and inconsistencies. I don’t want to belabor the point, so I’ll just list three of the things that irked me.

1. So Max is hitting Allison (or fixing her, as he calls it). Despite this being set up as a new development at the start of the book, it’s apparently being going on for the length of their marriage and both Rich and Kara have known about it. Rich was so against his violent best friend marrying his sister in law, he made up an excuse not to go to their wedding (which irked Max). No mention is made of what Kara thought of her husband not going to her sister’s wedding.

2. Near the end of the book Rich breaks his leg and is in a location that has been destroyed by a fight. Immediately after the scene with the fight, the exact same thing happens, except slightly differently, and Rich no longer has a broken leg.

3. My favorite part is when Rich sees Bigfoot for the first time. Is he frightened? Awed? Humbled by the great beast? No, he’s envious of Bigfoot’s freedom because he doesn’t have to pay a mortgage.

The best outcome of this book is that it sent me down a rabbit hole where I learned all about the families of wild people that were frequently seen in medieval Europe. Despite modern scholars describing them as symbolic of man’s desire to return to nature, they are obviously huge hairy apes. From their descriptions to the art at the time, Bigfoot had cousins in Europe and they were often seen in family gatherings. This information has made me incredibly happy. Perhaps some wild men, wild women, and wild children exist to this day in the thickly forested regions of France and Germany.

I award The Thing in the Woods

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a free copy through Netgalley. I am voluntarily leaving an honest review.

8 thoughts on “The Thing in the Woods by Gary Frank”

  1. The broken leg no longer being broken in a repeat scene sounds like a significant proofing problem. Thanks for the honest review, Iseult. I hope the author takes your review to heart and takes the time to make some changes.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. This book is published by a small press, but I hope they take my comments (and those of other reviewers) on board and help the author make the changes necessary to improve this book. Thanks, Diana.

      Liked by 2 people

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