“Into the forest and all the way through, I ask you to follow my voice.”
This is a hard book for me to write about, as probably made evident by the fact that it took me nearly 2 months to read, and then almost 4 more to write a review on it. I want to be very clear here and stress that those things aren’t due to it being a bad book, but speak instead to Cynthia Pelayo’s writing ability – she genuinely broke me with this one, folks, and I don’t blame her one bit: this book is so important. It will be a difficult one for people to read, and I don’t blame anyone who isn’t able to stomach it – the stuff on these pages is heavy, and that’s my warning to anyone thinking about going into it.
This is a collection of true crime poetry inspired by the hundreds – if not thousands – of cases of missing, murdered, or hurt women in the United States. A majority of these poems are about a specific case, but there are also a few that encompass the general danger and fear that women everyday face when going about our lives. The ability to relate to these situations and women isn’t necessary to appreciate and empathize with the perspectives and stories being told here, but it does make it pack an enormous punch for those who know all too well how quickly things like walking back to a car late at night can take a terrifying turn.
The strength that it must have taken Pelayo to do the research necessary to share bits of these stories is astounding, and I wanted to give her – and them – the necessary respect when reading Into the Forest. This is partially why it took me so long to get through it – I found myself Googling each name at the end of the poems, immersing myself in their tragic disappearances and awful endings. I won’t lie – I shed more than a few tears, and the time spent reading would leave me emotionally exhausted and hurting, feeling so strongly for these women that I’d never get to know, but could understand all too well.
In a time where things like the recent #MeToo movement are taking over social media and bringing light to the dark places that women have been told to stay silent on for way too long, Pelayo shines a beacon on real-world examples of women who haven’t been given the justice they deserve, urging readers to share any information they may have on the off chance that someone, somewhere might be able to bring closure and resolution to a case that has long since gone cold. These poems provide a beautifully written tribute for these lost women and their loved ones that is both heartfelt and heartbreaking, and it’s not one that I’ll be able to ever forget.
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