CITY IN A FOREST is a lush, poignant, layered novel about the power of the past, and freeing oneself to build a better future. One of the book’s strongest themes is struggle. Arden Collier is a struggling artist, overwhelmed by the need to keep up the family home. Buddy Caldwell, a struggling developer, plans to use Arden’s difficulties against her by having the city take away her home through eminent domain so that he can build access roads and sewer lines to his new development. Parker Gozer, Arden’s childhood friend, who has a painful history with Buddy, struggles with work-related boundaries that infringe on her family life.
All of them are tied to inherited parcels of land in Silver Park, land that means something to their pasts and their future and continues to exert enormous pull. For Parker, it’s protected land in her inheritance, a place of beauty and safety. For Buddy, its destruction symbolizes breaking the hold Parker’s father had on him and the mistreatment Buddy felt at Gozer’s hands. For Arden, it’s her home, her inspiration, the materials she uses in her art. The land Parker and Buddy own was deeded over to Parker’s father by Arden’s grandfather. In Arden’s view, it was a trick. “White men always know how to trade beads for land.”
A second, strong theme in the book is the way people use each other. Arden uses a letter from an art dealer to try to turn her life around. Buddy uses Arden’s situation to get her land. Parker feels used by her boss, her boss’s new mega-donor client, and Buddy, but her constant refusal to stand up for herself and her rash decisions get wearisome. Although she’s sure she’s doing the right thing at the end, the reader can’t help but wonder if she’s making yet another mistake. The novel ends abruptly, leaving a desire for more.
Author Ginger Pinholster is a master of significant detail. Wherever her characters are, whatever they experience, is immersed in the senses. The park’s beauty, the contrast to Buddy’s office, the mess Arden is too overwhelmed to clean, the frenetic pace of Parker’s life in Washington, DC–are all made immediate as Pinholster uses small specifics to paint large, intricate pictures.
Ginger Pinholster, a master of significant detail, weaves her struggling character’s pasts, present, and futures into a breathtaking, beautiful novel in CITY IN A FOREST.
~Eva Schegulla for IndieReader