The Light Through the Leaves Book Review
In this day and age, it’s not easy to get six people to come together and agree on a good book or many other things for that matter, but when my book club met in August, we all agreed that The Light Through The Leaves by Glendy Venderah was a club favorite. We had a hard time putting this one down and could not wait to discuss it. (Shout out to my Volley Girls Book Club)
The book begins with a mother of three, Ellis Abbey, taking her children to the woods to find mental clarity and summon the strength to confront her husband about the affair she has just spotted him having with his tennis instructor. Amidst the chaos of corralling the twin boys and her newborn into the car, one of the twins spills tadpoles in the back seat. It isn’t discovered until she is 10 miles down the road that she had never put her baby, Viola, in the car. Ellis returns to the exact spot in the forest, but Viola is gone without a trace.
Admittedly, at this point I teetered with the idea of putting the book down as I wasn’t mentally and emotionally prepared to read about children being stolen and potentially tortured. I stuck it out, and The Light Through The Leaves took me on an unexpected and surprising journey. The book is broken into five parts, jumping to and from Ellis’ journey into the figurative and literal woods to lose herself and carve out a new beginning by way of forgiveness and healing to Baby Viola and her new life.
Ellis begins a downward spiral into depression and substance abuse that eventually drives her to leave her entire family before she can cause any more damage to them and hopefully break the generational cycle of family trauma. Meanwhile, Viola is found by another woman who believes the miracle of finding a baby in the woods sprung from her many pleads to the universe for a child of her own. With the raven cawing overhead, she names the baby Daughter of Raven, raising her off the grid and as one with the earth.
Venderah does not shy away from heavy topics in The Light Through The Leaves. I thought she did an exceptional job in broaching kidnapping. While not glamorizing it, she took great care in keeping Viola safe even though she was being raised very differently from how she would have been raised in her family of origin. While not approaching any of these topics flippantly, she develops the story of each character in a way that makes the reader feel empathy towards each of them. It was not hard for me to imagine myself in any of their shoes.
If you enjoy a book that covers an array of topics, this is a good one for you. Beyond kidnapping, the book notably touched on grief, addiction, alternative parenting, leaving your family, living off the grid, rebuilding broken relationships, sexual orientation, forgiveness, and the work it takes to heal the deepest wounds. See what I mean when I say it had a little something for everyone and an alluring plot that practically made the pages turn themselves? I hope you will enjoy this book as much as our club did.