Cover Image: A Light in the Forest

A Light in the Forest

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Member Reviews

If I could give a book a standing ovation, it would be A Light in the Forest. 

I had read The Night of Many Endings, previously and knew instantly that I loved Melissa Payne's writing style. When I heard the word that she would be releasing another book, I knew without a doubt in my mind I had to have it. 

I never read the synopsis, I wanted to go in not knowing a thing and be able to feel the suspense of each surprise. However, I did want to know more about Payne, so I feverishly stalked the internet to learn a little more about this talented breakthrough author. Fun fact, Melissa refers to her cat as being "a very loud cat" , I chuckled a bit when I read that. I also, have a very loud fur-child. 

So as I snuggled up with my very large fur ball and my book, I was one happy girl. 

This book is going to break the internet...

I was instantly thrown into a suspenseful page turner that had grabbed my attention early on and set the bar for what was to come. The character development was executed with perfection. The twist was a doozy and left me breathless. 

Here is a little teaser for you :
Vega Jones escapes an abusive relationship with nothing but her two-month-old baby and the van she grew up in. Her destination is a small Ohio town her late vagabond mother left years ago. It’s one full of nobodies, her mother warned. That makes it the ideal refuge for Vega to lie low, feel safe, and maybe learn more about a past her mother never spoke of.

Vega warms to the town and to new acquaintances like Heff, the young deputy and artist who prefers his yard art to actual policing, and empathetic Eve, a local farmer whose near-death experience gave her more than just her life back. But even in this welcoming community, there’s an undercurrent of something unsettled, talk of a tragedy that unfolded in the woods years ago, and a mystery connected to Vega in ways she couldn’t have anticipated.

As a mother on the run and following a path of mounting risks and illuminating secrets, Vega discovers that even during the darkest of times, there’s light in unexpected places.
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Thank you NetGalley, Lake Union Publishing and Melissa Payne for for an ARC in exchange for an honest review

I absolutely loved this book. Read it in almost one sitting. Vega and her Mother have been on the road since Vega was an infant. They help abused women find new lives. When her mother dies, Vega enters into an abusive relationship and soon finds out she is pregnant. After her son Riley is born, things get worse. She ends up fleeing for Crystal, Ohio because of a postcard she found in her mother's belongings. Crystal is a magical place with one dirt road with several stores on it. There she finds neighbors and family and home. I don't wan to spoil this amazing book for you but it is unputdownable. I would give it five stars but there were some points that were never resolved which I wish they had been.
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As I have mentioned in my previous reviews, I started accepting Advanced Reader Copies in exchange for reviews, in the hopes that I may discover someone new who can take a place amongst the select group of few authors I love. Of the many authors I have introduced myself to in the past year, Melissa Payne is according to me the most outstanding of them all and a new member of this select group. 

"A Light in the Forest" is the first book of her I am reading; I can also see that she has three more books to her credit, all of which are well- received and having read this book, I am totally not surprised. All her previous books seem to have explored the various vagaries of human nature, their capacity for cruelty and kindness. "A Light in the Forest" is a story of trauma, cruelty, overcoming said trauma and rising out of the ashes like a phoenix. 

The story follows two significant people in two different timeliness, Vega and her mother Renee, and the people who touch their lives - both good and bad. The story centers mainly on the marginalized people, whom the society often misunderstands and expects to confine to what they consider is the norm. Melissa Payne keeps a mirror in front of us readers, and forces us to walk in these misunderstood peoples' shoes, in the same hardened paths they are forced to navigate, thus compelling us to acknowledge the pain and trauma we put them through owing to our own limitation of understanding. In fact, she wrings out the unconditional empathy these people deserve from their fellow beings.

It is usually difficult to build tension in a fictional story which deals more with human emotions than action. But the author uses the alternating timelines between the 1990s and 2021 to spin an engaging tale which grips our attention, engages our heart and doesn't let us keep the book down. I am glad I got to read this book and couldn't recommend it more to lovers of contemporary fiction which focuses on human beings rather than the events surrounding them. 

*Trigger Warning* - The book portrays various events that might trigger past trauma - both physical and sexual.
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This is a difficult book for me to review. It was an emotional journey through a lot of ugliness to get to a place of beauty on the other side. I'm so glad I took the trip because I'm left with feelings of hope for a better world. You never know what another person is dealing with or going through. Be kind.
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Wow! This phenomenal story was heartbreaking, yet filled with hope and is one I highly recommend. The author's representation was on point and her writing brought the characters to life through the pages. This story touched on so many dark and difficult, yet very relevant topics. She handled each with sensitivity and her in-depth research of these issues was apparent. While not all likable, the characters were true to life and realistic. The storyline that was told in the past and present was gripping and kept me on the edge of my seat, reading late into the night. Even though I knew in my heart how the story would end, I couldn't stop until I finished the last page.
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When I was invited to join this book tour I was very excited, as a Night of Many Endings by Meliss Payne was such a powerful read for me last year! 
I really love the small town atmosphere in this one! Coming from a small town in Ohio, I feel like this was spot on! People from small towns are resistant to change, know everyone’s business and if someone new comes into town, everyone is going to know! 🤣 I felt like a few of these characters definitely reminded me of people I know! I will say this one does have some contents warnings including: domestic abuse, rape, sexual abuse, transphobia, homophobia, animal cruelty, and near death experiences. So if these topics are triggering, I would tread lightly! This is pretty thrilling and twisty book for a fiction genre that warms your heart and makes you believe in the kindness of strangers and mankind. I thought the book was well written and enjoyed the characters! The alternating POVs and then the occasional dual timeline brought this book together so well!

Vega is raised by her mother, who has now passed, to believe all men are bad, and you should run when things go poorly. So when she finds herself with a 2 month old and an abusive boyfriend, she quickly packs up a few of her and her sons belongings and hits the road. She has very little as far as money and supplies, and her life on the road with her mom has left her with no real friends. So when she finds a postcard her mom has kept from years before of a place called Crystal, Ohio, she decides to start there. The people immediately take to her and begin offering help that Vega is too proud to take initially. Vega is desperate to find a connection between her mother and the people of the town. When she gets on her social media and sees her boyfriend has put out an amber alert on her baby, she is terrified someone is going to find her out, but should she be more worried about the people of Crystal?
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A story of abuse, not fitting in, courage, escape, community and friendship.

Reminding me a bit of 'Shadows of Pecan Hollow', 'A Light in the Forest' contains wonderful characters, small town life, and a troubling shadow settling over the story foreshadowing dark things to come. 

I loved the town characters.  They have wormed their way into my heart, and I'd love if Payne decides to write more stories within this town setting so we can revisit these characters. 

I also loved that one of the MC's is a Trans Woman. She is a lovely character and really pushed this story from a 4 to a 5-star read for me.

A great story about tragic occurrences that unfortunately still happen all too often every day.
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Thank you to Get Red PR, Netgalley, and Lake Union Publishing for the digital galley of this book in exchange for my honest review.

I really enjoyed this author's previous book, The Night of Many Endings, when I read it last year.  It was a surprise standout book for me and one that I can still recall details of a year later. The author's new book, A Light in the Forest is another powerful story that will stay with me. 

Brief Synopsis: Vega Jones escapes an abusive relationship, taking her baby with her, and drives to Crystal, Ohio, a small town she's never been to but knows of from a postcard her mom kept in their van. Hoping to feel closer to her mother and learn more about her unknown past, Vega arrives in the town with very little money and unsure of her plans. Upon her arrival, she meets Eve, a local store owner who allows Vega to stay in the apartment above her store. It doesn't take long for Vega to get to know the locals, both good and bad, as well as learn of some of the town's history and secrets.  But, two things remain unknown for Vega: how long before her ex-boyfriend finds her and what does Crystal, Ohio have to do with her mother's past?

What I liked about this book: This book was compelling and I couldn't put it down. There was just enough mystery to keep me guessing how all the pieces would come together. And the ultimate messages of this book are so important and were delivered so well, in my opinion. Everyone deserves a safe space and family and this book is a wonderful reminder of how we can all play a role in standing up for and helping others in our community.

What I didn't like about this book:  At times, there were a few parts that felt repetitive with the main character.

Overall, I would certainly recommend this book and I look forward to reading more by this author.

4.5 Stars
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Vega Jones thought she had the life she wanted since her mother died. Vega and her two month old son Riley left the only home they knew. Can Vega make a life for herself and Riley in Crystal? Find out in A Light in the Forest.
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This book was fantastic! I really enjoyed it and it kept me guessing throughout, which is difficult for most books to do. I felt like I connected with the characters and really enjoyed the plot!
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I loved the characters in this book so much that when the story was over even though it was resolved just fine, I didn't want it to end. I just wanted to keep living in the world created here by Payne. The story was so good that I really don't have any complaints about it. But I do have a bone to pick with the cover and title. It has nothing really to do with the story. Honestly the title and the cover had me expecting a completely different kind of book and while I was happy to be wrong and delighted with the book that was, I'm not sure everyone will be. If it was me I would have named the book Crystal and had the bus on the cover.
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Wow. When a "new to you" author can gut you and intrigue just can't keep that quiet.

Before I go on, please check your CW for this novel. There are some tough topics discussed in detail, including violence and abuse of all kinds.

This straight-forward story follows a girl named Vega as she runs away from her abusive spouse. Her young son is with her during this harrowing story.

The writing and depth to the characters is what drove me to keep reading. This story is a tough one, but so well-done and handled. There's care done for these tough issues and leaves the reader with all kinds of emotions. The story's pace just flowed so well that I read this in a short period of time. While I did not always connect to the story, I think it brings up a strong conversation about the true nature of family and the lengths we go for the ones we love.

Thank you Get Red PR for the copy of this novel via Netgalley.
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Such a great story! A story of trauma and mystery involving a girl and her baby trying to get away from an abusive relationship by finding where her mother grew up and the town coming together to help her. Absolutely enjoyed it and recommend it! 

*Thank you @getredpr for the #gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.*
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Lake Union Publishing and NetGalley provided me with an ARC and wow what a brave, refreshing delight it was. Terrific writing and solid character development wrapped around a very good mystery. Highly recommend!
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A Light in the Forest surprised me as the main character had everything to be "just crying" all the time she took her life and that of her baby into her hands and made something of it. She has to fight hard for a place in her new town and for recognition and she does accomplish her goals. Great read!
I thank the author, her publisher, and NetGalley for this book.
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I really enjoyed A Light in the Forest, it was unique and unlike any of my other 2022 reads. The characters showed much strength and the theme of support from the community within this story was really special. It was complex and shows tenderness and empathy regarding many issues that people face in the present. The characters were intriguing and relatable, they make you care about their well-being. I wish anyone struggling for acceptance or in abusive situations had the support from this book in their corner.
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Sort of started reading this book knowing I had other stuff to do, but every time I went to get up, another little twist kept my interest. Until lastly, I just fell in love with the ending, and it tied up all the loose ends in a beautiful bow!
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A very beautiful and emotional book about a younger mother fleeing an abusive and toxic relationship in hope of a peaceful new life. 
 The book was very well written and a lot of thought went into the story. The main subject of the main character's toxic and abusive relationship felt pretty heavy and I was rooting for a better life for Vega and her little baby Riley. The story follows two intertwining timelines which were very easy to follow. Getting to know more about Eve was my favourite part of the story. She was a kind and strong side character and was so supportive of Vega. The whole character cast was diverse and I loved to see some people change their outlook on life.
 This was a great book of found family and helping those in need. 

Thank you to Melissa Payne, Lake Union Publishing and NetGalley for the eARC in exchange for my honest opinion.
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I'm a huge fan of Melissa Payne's books. They always draw me in and tear at my heart. The Night of Many Endings was one that kept me turning the pages. This one is the same. Pulled me in and held me captive until the very ending. 

Favorite line:

This book has a few things going on but is very easy to follow. It's told from two different time periods and two different people. Back in 1995 by Donna who is a runaway. Her dad has been abusing her horribly and she can't take it anymore. Then we jump ahead to 2021 and meet Vega who has left an abusive relationship. She has a two month old baby boy and is on the run from her boyfriend. 

Vega and her mother traveled around all over the place helping women escape abusive relationships. Renee, Vega's mom, didn't have much faith in most men. They meant trouble and were usually abusive. At least that was what she had learned in life. She taught her daughter to help others. To not take things off of men. Pretty much to be strong. But Vega was not strong alone. After her mom died she didn't know what to do. She had always been with her and they had always traveled everywhere helping others. To be alone was a bit scary for her so when she met Zach she did not see the warning signs. When things went south though she heard her mom saying for her to RUN!!! Run she did. All the way to Crystal, Ohio. She had found the name of this town on a picture of her mom when she was just a kid. A young teen.

Vega hopes to learn something about her mom here in Chrystal but no one seems to know her at all. The people in this town are pretty good though. Eve owns a coffee house and rents Vega an apartment. Heff is the local part time cop and yard artist and somewhat of a realtor. Mostly it seems he helps others. Eve has a farm and is a trans. Some people in this town hate her. Others accept her as she is. She is from Crystal but was gone for many years. Vega and Crystal become fast friends. 

A lot happens in this story and you will meet a lot of not so nice people. There is a bit of animal abuse. Just once but still. It was not nice to read but I understand why the author added it. There is homophobia and sexual abuse too. There are some people you will love to hate and some that will make your heart feel full. A couple will grow on you. Parts of this story brought some big tears to my eyes. How a town came together to help touched my heart. How you find out who some of these people are related made me shed some tears. There are also a couple of parts that made me laugh out loud. Not a lot though. The cat fight was funny in its own way. No cats involved. You'll have to read it!

This is a beautifully written story. It will capture your heart and hold on to it throughout. Some parts will make you gasp. Some will make you feel the person's pain. It will have you scratching your head trying to figure out how people can have so much hatred in their hearts while others have so much love. So much to give. So much kindness even in the face of hate. I adored Vega even though she did get on my nerves a few times. Eve I loved. She was awesome. Heff was just good looking and kind. Betty and Carl were the perfect couple. Even Jane came around finally. Each of these people will leave a mark on your heart. If you let them. 

This world needs more love and understanding. Less judgement and hate. This book made me see things that I don't usually see. Understand some things that I just never thought much about. Maybe I should. Maybe we all should. We definitely need to learn to love each other without name calling and labels. Life's just too short for it.

Thank you #NetGalley, #MelissaPayne, #LakeUnionPublishing for this ARC. This is my own true thoughts about this book.

5 huge stars. A very high recommendation. Read it. Shed a few tears. Understand that we all can't be the same.
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Book review
A Light In The Forest by Melissa Payne

Thanks to @netgalley for this book! It is out now so you can grab it!

This book deals with a lot of heavy stuff. Abuse, animal cruelty (which I skimmed, because everyone knows I can't handle that), and then homophobia.
It's a great book though and I would recommend it. I think it would be great for a book club.

Vega Jones, escapes her abusive boyfriend with her baby to a small town her mother used to talk about in the middle of nowhere Ohio. She thinks this will be the perfect place to hide from her boyfriend. She believes her mother has a connection to the town, but isn't sure what. Vega meets so very wonderful people, in the town sheriff Heff and the cafe owner Eve. They both help her out tremendously and Vega soon begins to open up to these strangers.
The town is a very backward, divided town and Vega witnesses alot of sordid behavior, as well as begins to uncover her mother's tie to the town.
It has some good twists and turns in it!
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