In The Woods, a collection of loosely linked short stories, short fiction writer Janice Obuchowski weaves the poignant private lives of characters residing in a small Vermont college town. In "The Chair," a woman grapples with aging and the shifts in her marriage as she looks for a new home for a long-ago wedding gift. The couple in "Potions" must face the fallout of an affair while their daughter plays make-believe in the yard. Two siblings find themselves up against a mysterious, monstrous force in their grandmother's woods while staying with her to escape their feuding parents in "Monsters": "I think the world is even worse than we imagine it," says Ben to his sister.
Each story in Obuchowski's collection, carefully paced and keenly observed, takes a close and compassionate look at the supposedly bucolic lifestyles of those living in a quaint town and unearths the emotional fault lines that undergird ordinary life. Stories like "The Cat," "The Chair" and "Mountain Shade" take a more contemplative approach to this subject, using everyday activities to illuminate past and present griefs with nuance and patience. Stories such as "Potions" and "Monsters" stand out for the way they interweave these quiet dramas with the shadowy and evocative mystery of the woods. Such tales are particularly adept at harnessing the power of the collection's setting, which is at once beautiful and lonely. With hints of dark fairy tales and grim truths that are unable to be faced, these stories marry unsettled imaginings to those that are heart-wrenchingly real. --Alice Martin, freelance writer and editor