The Woods All Black

Tor.com. Mar. 2024. 160p. ISBN 9781250790316. $19.99. HORROR
After serving in World War I, then spending some time reviving himself in Paris, nurse Leslie Bruin returns to the United States and joins the Frontier Nursing Service to continue helping others. Assigned to remote Spar Creek in Appalachia, he expects to administer vaccinations and help with health concerns. But when Leslie arrives, his immediate feeling of unease grows as he tries to help a young person survive Spar Creek’s insistence on conformity and the outright hostility of the local pastor and his flock. Leslie is seen by the intolerant locals as an intractable woman (he is a trans man) who chose education and a career over the bonds of proper attire and marriage. Leslie’s sense that he is being watched at night becomes a realization that in the woods is a monstrous danger far outside the threats he is used to managing. Mandelo (Feed Them Silence) has created a compelling tale about the tension between the perceived safety of following orders and rules established by others, the strength found in being one’s true self, and the terrible power in violent revenge.
VERDICT Readers will be drawn in to this horror novella with broad crossover appeal, thanks to its skillful blend of trans love story, historical fiction, and Southern gothic folk horror.
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