41815388A fierce, poignant and highly original memoir about sexuality, shame and the lure of the trees.

After the disintegration of the most significant relationship of his life, the demons Luke Turner has been battling since childhood are quick to return – depression and guilt surrounding his identity as a bisexual man, experiences of sexual abuse, and the religious upbringing that was the cause of so much confusion. It is among the trees of London’s Epping Forest where he seeks refuge. But once a place of comfort, it now seems full of unexpected, elusive threats that trigger twisted reactions.

No stranger to compulsion, Luke finds himself drawn again and again to the woods, eager to uncover the strange secrets that may be buried there as he investigates an old family rumour of illicit behaviour. Away from a society that still struggles to cope with the complexities of masculinity and sexuality, Luke begins to accept the duality that has provoked so much unrest in his life – and reconcile the expectations of others with his own way of being.

OUT OF THE WOODS is a dazzling, devastating and highly original memoir about the irresistible yet double-edged potency of the forest, and the possibility of learning to find peace in the grey areas of life.

Source Format Pages Publisher Genre Publication Date
Netgalley eARC 288 Orion Publishing Group Biographies/ Memoirs January 24th, 2019

*I received a copy of the book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.*

I was scanning Netgalley for something to catch my eye. The cover, the blurb- I wanted something to pull me in. Out of the Woods was that book that managed to make me click that button for access.

Impressive blurb, the promise of ‘electrifying and corageous’, the ‘lure of the trees’ and an honest account of one’s life- all factors which made me incredibly excited for and apprehensive of this particular title.

Out of the Woods is a memoir that spans generations, history and present of Epping Forest, and 3 decades of confusion, guilt and looking for answers to find peace, acceptance and love. Luke Turner grew up in a Methodist family as the son of a preacher. The conflict in his life started early on as Luke questions and hides his true self, his bisexuality and struggles with understanding the masculinity of teenage boys that surround him.

When faced with the deathly silent grief of the end of love, my instinct was to obscure it with a hurricane of distraction, day and night, from forest and London alike.

As Luke struggles through relationships, the sexual compulsion makes everything around him and within him crumble. In the midst of trying to find something- anything– that would make sense in the ongoing ripple in his life, Luke searches his soul, explores the nightlife, digs deep into the history of his family and how everything is tied to Epping Forest.

Whilst his coming of age brought along excitement with his sexuality, it also brought sexual abuse and danger. It takes time before he accepts that, indeed, he has been sexually abused and that what has happened to him- even though, it gave him a rush of adrenaline at a certain moment, was not right. Not right at all.

This book is so utterly atmospheric and beautifully written. The voice of Luke Turner is one that made me travel distances and ages and settings as I was with him on his journey, both physically and mentally through thick and thin and sadness and small joys and victories.

Intense focus in parallel with Luke’s life is set upon Epping Forest- with everything that Luke says about the forest- what it looks like, what it feels like, how it has evolved and the secrets and crime it hides, made me feel like I have seen the forest, visited it myself and felt it’s mystical power over humanity.

As I lay there I might die and be absorbed- the forest would not blink a moment but swallow up the nutrients locked inside me and carry on, uncaring and unknowing. I would be returned to the forest, to all of them, to the greates power that the planet has ever seen and will ever know.

Luke writes this memoir without holding a single part of who he is and what he has experienced back. His approach to telling his tale is evocative and honest and raw. I found Luke to be entirely appreciative of his family, the Epping Forest and his passion to unearth the history around both to find that something that ties family and forest together. He wants to know why and how and explain everything… But it’s never really that simple.

The decision to dynamite the foundations of a life will always throw rubble in unexpected directions.

I hope that these few quotes shared from the eARC version of the book have successfully demonstrated the depth of intricate detail and the power of observation with which Luke brings us his story.

As far as memoirs go, this one hits hard… I kept imagining that Luke could be anyone I meet on the streets passing by, someone who deals with a turmoil within them. A turmoil that makes their feet walk in certain directions to bring about change in their life for better or worse. By the end of this book, you will know Luke. You will know about his childhood, his family, his first sexual experiences that have shaped his life. You will know the compulsion that acts as a catalyst and eventually you will see him break the chains. It’s like witnessing a caterpillar – cocooned into (sometimes false) safety by any means possible- evolve into a butterfly. Into clarity and future.

I was impure, corrupt. There was always talk of people who had ‘gone off the rails’ and I didn’t want to become one of them. It didn’t and it doesn’t help that the more extreme and judgemental voices in Christianity might consider heterosexual adultery a sin and homosexuality an abomination: to be bisexual was to carry two damnations in one.

To finish off this review, I would like to send a thank you to Luke- a thank you out into the Universe as he might not ever see this review. Thank you for  sharing you story without hiding even the tiniest sliver of yourself behind false pretenses. For being honest. For being brave. My heart beat along with this memoir and maybe, somewhere, some time, someone else will read this book. Someone who can relate on so many levels and perhaps find solace and peace and hope.

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