This novel, published in 1998, won the Independent Publisher Book Award (IPPY) Nominee for Fiction (Finalist) (1997), and James Tiptree Jr. Award Nominee for Longlist (1996). It is currently a movie directed by Ellen Page, airing June 3, 2016.
Into the Forest haunts with its larger vision of a world in collapse, made all the more affecting because we’re told so little about it. One day the power goes out—with a whimper, not a bang—and then it simply never comes back. With all forms of mass communication gone besides rumour and Chinese whispers, humans are left very much in the dark. “That’s truthful to me,” Rozema remarks. “The absence of knowing is what’s going to be difficult for lots of people. I would find that just terrifying.”
Set in the near-future, Into the Forest is a powerfully imagined novel that focuses on the relationship between two teenage sisters living alone in their Northern California forest home.
Over 30 miles from the nearest town, and several miles away from their nearest neighbor, Nell and Eva struggle to survive as society begins to decay and collapse around them. No single event precedes society’s fall. There is talk of a war overseas and upheaval in Congress, but it still comes as a shock when the electricity runs out and gas is nowhere to be found. The sisters consume the resources left in the house, waiting for the power to return. Their arrival into adulthood, however, forces them to reexamine their place in the world and their relationship to the land and each other.
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In many ways, Nell and Eva have experienced a near-idyllic childhood, growing up miles from the nearest neighbor in the forests of northern California. Their father, an iconoclastic grade school principal, has decided to keep them out of school, and their mother has encouraged each of them to follow her own passions. As a result, Eva is determined to become a ballet dancer, while her younger sister, Nell, hopes to matriculate at Harvard.
Despite the fact that their happy world is rocked when their mother dies of cancer, they and their father are determined to carry on. Even as terrorism, a distant war, increasingly unpredictable weather, and an unstable economy, challenge the reliability of social order and infrastructure, their little family continues to hoard its resources and attempts to keep up its spirits as they wait for the lights to come back on, the phone to ring, and the lives they have been anticipating to return to them. But when their father is killed in an accident, and a dangerous stranger arrives at their door, the girls confront the fact that they must find some new way to grow into adulthood.