Thriller Thursday Audio: These Silent Woods by Kimi Cunningham Grant
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 5 of 5 stars
Genre: Thriller, Mystery
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Macmillan Audio (November 16, 2021)
Length: 8 hrs and 22 mins
Narrator: Bronson Pinchot
I challenge anyone to read These Silent Woods without falling to pieces. No, seriously, I was an emotional mess after this one, even with prior knowledge that this wasn’t going to your typical sensational thriller. For context though, this is a story about a man and his young daughter living in isolation in a cabin in the northern Appalachians. The father is secretive and careful about keeping to themselves, barely venturing out beyond their patch of forest, relying on a trusted source on the outside to bring them supplies. He’s even nervous about using his real name, going by the alias Cooper instead, while his little girl is given the nickname Finch.
Later, we discover that the two of them have been living like this for a while, ever since Finch was a baby. Out here in the remote wilderness though, with no running water, no electricity, and no contact with the outside world, how long can Cooper hope to keep raising his child under such conditions? Already, Finch has been asking difficult questions, and showing increasing defiance in the face of his strict rules. At eight years old, her precocious mind is craving knowledge as well as social interaction, and Cooper knows what he can provide is not enough, though neither can he bring himself to tell Finch the truth of why they must live this way or how they got here. He’s still haunted by those past events, and he’s afraid of slipping up even just a little bit, because it would mean losing his daughter forever.
Only two people in the world know they exist. One is a local hermit named Scotland whom Cooper barely trusts, but the old man seems amenable to keeping his secrets for now, and he is also kind to Finch. The other is Cooper’s old Army buddy Jake, who actually owns the property and had arranged for them to hide out in his cabin. Every winter, Jake is also the one who brings them their much-needed supplies before the snows set in. But this year, Jake misses his visit, making Cooper very worried for his friend as well as what he must now do to survive. He and his daughter will need food, making a trip into civilization all but unavoidable, and if that wasn’t bad enough, for days, Cooper has been noticing signs that their once safe haven has been breached. A trespasser has been in their woods, that much is clear, but what are their motivations? And how will Cooper keep Finch’s curiosity from putting them at risk?
Sometimes you go into a book with expectations, but then get something you weren’t prepared for, something that makes you think and feel in ways that surprise you. I love it when that happens, and These Silent Woods was that kind of novel. Yes, it’s a thriller, but calling it that feels inadequate and risks selling it short. It is also a family drama, a story about genuine characters just doing all they can to try and stay together and survive. Cooper is many things—a widower, a war veteran, a man in hiding—but above everything else he is a loving father who wants to do right by his daughter. He knows he’ll have to explain everything to her at some point, but he can’t quite bring himself to do it just yet because…well, it’s complicated.
And so, the plot gradually sheds its layers of secrets, revealing to readers, little by little, the events in Cooper’s life that have led him and Finch to this point. Along the way we are also treated to some pretty intense situations, like for instance, with their too-curious neighbor Scotland who always seems to be poking his nose into their business, and who may or may not have ulterior motives for keeping such a close eye on them. Then there are all the too-close encounters in town, where every friendly citizen stopping to engage in small talk with Cooper suddenly becomes a high-stress edge-of-your-seat scenario that threatens to expose him. All this tension culminates eventually in a moment of truth as an unexpected ally shows up at the cabin, and Finch spies a lone stranger with a camera taking pictures of the woods around where they live.
As for the rest, you’re going to have to find out for yourselves by picking up this book, because I’m not going to reveal anything more about the plot past this point except to say that the story just gets better and better. As for how my emotions got completely destroyed, well, that came later in the novel, in the climax and denouement sections of the ending, and all I can say about that is…wow. Just wow.
Needless to say, I highly recommend These Silent Woods by Kimi Cunningham Grant, and looks like I’m going to have to look into what else she’s written, because now I want to read more! I also want to praise the audiobook and give a shoutout to Bronson Pinchot, who did most of the narration. This isn’t the first audiobook I’ve heard him read, but by far it’s his most memorable performance and one of my favorites. He was absolutely perfect as Cooper, his voice conveying all the strength and emotional weight required for this beautiful tale to come alive.