Customer Reviews of The Light in the Forest
Captive in a white man's world.
The Light in the Forest is about a young and strong-hearted boy, True Son, who will fight for his life as an Indian. He is torn between his love for his Indian family and his blood ties with the white men. When he is forced to live with the white people and leave his beloved Indian family it seems as though his whole world is crashing down around him, while he grasps at the small pieces and tries to hold all that is dear to him together. Living with the white people is like tearing his heart out, and his white family watches as it begins to slow for there is no more joy in the world to keep it beating. As the days pass his small body wilts like a flower in the winter that does not have the sun to keep is petals full of life. He could not bear to live as a captive of his own life, his wild spirit suffocating. This book uses great detail in expressing the character's feeling and I felt as though I were there, feeling True Son's pain, understanding how each breath he took was like sucking poison into his lungs. As I finished the story the ending troubled me at first. Then I read it again and realized it was a fitting ending. I now understand why the author ended the book this way. The author is simply laying down the truth. Conrad Richter didn't write what the reader wanted to hear; he wrote the truth about the course of life no matter how harsh and bitter it sounded. Life does not always end up how you want it to; you have to play the hand you're dealt. I recommend this book because it really gives you a different outlook on life.
I was not forced to read this book, like so many of the reviewers here. I was in my grade school library when I spotted the cover- two young, lean, armed Indians with mohawk haircuts walking through an impressionistic forest with a beam of light descending upon them. One Indian was entirely red, the other all white. I read the back cover. It was about a white captive among the Indians. I loved that subject as age ten and the book was my choice from the library that day. I must admit that it was tough going the first time I read it. It was sometimes hard to understand about whom he was referring to when True Son thought about his father and the book did lack action. I also admit that the ending was a let down. I wanted a cut and dried ending with no loose ends and LITF leaves the reader with a huge loose end. At ten years old, this book left me disappointed and confused.
Yet I voluntarily read it again not less than two years later and I fell in love with it the second time. I have since then read it at least once every year and sometimes more. I am 29 now. I cannot adequately describe why this novel still moves me. I can say it is beautifully written and has a truly moving story about a boy caught between two very different worlds. Also Richter's description of the beauty of nature and the way people can see the same facets of nature and of mankind in two completly different ways is incredible. I could go on and on why this novel means so much to me, but I will state simply that it is my all time favorite.
Poor Conrad Richter. His literary fate is like that of Steinbeck's shorter works - read by 8th graders. When I mention Richter to my friends they think more of the Newberry than the Pulitzer Prize. Historical novelists are rarely thought of as having written "literature", yet that is what Richter wrote. Like Steinbeck, his style was simple and clear and strong. Like Steinbeck he understood the pain of being human. After reading one of his brief novels - they are often only about 200 pages - I wonder why other writers need so many more words. Richter did not think of himself as an historical novelist. He wrote instead to give a sense of how people experienced time past. Things happen in his novels, but the events are secondary to the perceptions, attitudes and (dare I say?) psychology. "The Light in the Forest" is a wonderful example of his work. Though it is about a teenage boy, it is not the "coming of age" or "rite or passage" story that it is often described as. It is about a person who lives in a world that has gone beyond his control - his life has been wrested from him by national and racial politics. His choices turn him into an American isolato. Very contemporary. The out-of-print and equally good companion novel "A Country of Strangers" pursues the same themes. Only in "Country" the protaganist is a white who has lived with the Indians and been returned to the whites. Like "Light" one of its virtues is to see through other's eyes. I wish I had the space to quote Stone Girl's dissection of Christianity. Maybe someday Richter will get his volume in the Libray of American and all his works will come back in print, including my favorite, "The Free Man".
A Great Book and Description of the Time Period
Wow, what a great book. I really don't know what everybody else is talking about, but I thought that this book was great. So great, that in fact, I am now reading it for the 3rd time. I read it once for pleasure, and once in school. I really like history, and maybe that is why I like it so much. I feel that it definetly transports me back to that time, and that region. I live in Philly, and the book takes place not all that far from there. I think that it would be fun to be able to be somebody like True Son. While slightly depressing at times, like when you realize that this was something that ACTUALLY happened to real people, and the tragedy of it all. That somebody has a family that they don't even care about, and that they never really knew them, and their family loves for them. Well, I won't tell you the ending, but it is pretty tragic. All in all, a great book, one of my all time favorites! Well, I am going to go read it now.
The "light" in The Light in the Forest
This book comes out of the true roots of America's past, a book that stirs something deep in every person's heart, a yearning for freedom, an achingly sweet sadness that doesn't cause tears to gush but makes you feel a little ache inside you for what you have lost- or rather what True Son, the main character, has lost. Everyone has something of True Son in them- his plight: of having the blood of a white... but the heart and mind of an Indian. We all have something of the Indian in us- the love for nature, the love for animals, peace, solitude, and simple ways- which is why this book appeals so much to all of us. Through simple words we come to understand the anguish of True Son, a white boy raised as an Indian, being pulled in two separate directions. It is like any person today, having to make the choice between close friends and blood family. As we read, we feel the injustices done to the Indian, under the spell of True Son's simple dialect and way of speaking. Even the third-person narrative is as if True Son is talking to us. As he says "The Indian and deer would wither and die in such confinement, but the white man flourished in the stale sickly air of his house like fleas in his wall and borers in the cabin logs," we forget that we live in such confinement, and wonder with True Son at the white man's stupidity. You'll either love this book, as I did, or hate it, for there are still many people prejudiced against the Indians and their philosophy of life so far from material things. So if you luxuriate in "that instrument of torture called a bolster" and revel in the joys of material things, then perhaps this book is not for you. The ending on first read-through seems to leave a little to be desired. It's a little bit sad, but after a second consideration you will think that it is the best ending Conrad Richter could have given it. This beautifully written book will truly touch something in your heart and leave you with a wider view of the world, a better understanding and compassion of being torn between two totally different worlds- and which way your mind and heart take you, and which way your blood, heritage, and traditions take you. I definitely recommend this book!