CITW Reviews



This novel is hauntingly imagined and gorgeously told. It immediately surrounded me with a mood that lingered almost heavily, while the intriguing and layered plot made it an absolute page-turner! The Church In The Wildwood is expertly and thoughtfully crafted, an impressive recipe of poetry and plot- it captivated me with beautiful phrasing that begged attention while twists, turns, and soul-searching characters compelled me to quickly read on. The author offers a heartwrenching and dangerous story - child abuse and unfathomable family secrets appear throughout - yet she weaves it all together with thoughtful insights that keep the reader hopeful. I found it easy to understand and care for the vast array of entangled characters who are offered their own space to falter, fail, and try again. This is a fantastic and emotional read!


...such a gifted writer. [The Church in the Wildwood is] like this gift I'm slowly unwrapping.
Following a tragic accident, the tortured past of Joseph’s mother is brought to light. How much of Joseph’s history has been distorted through her deception? Does her past as an abused, child-bride in a polygamist cult excuse her sins? Does the camp fire story about his father’s suicide hold any truth? What really happened the day he was born? A deeply evocative story, The Church in the Wildwood presents humanity at both its best and worst. The depth and authenticity of each character is a triumph to say the least. It takes great skill to create characters so flawed, yet relatable. Although the story moves slowly at first, the ever increasing plot tension draws the reader in, refusing release until the very last page. A poignant beauty, that can exist in the ugliest corners of the world, is presented artfully by the author. This could have been a very heavy coming of age story, as it touches on abuse and death. Rather than creating another version of the tired “poor, little orphan” plot line, the imagery and unique perspective has created a story of love, forgiveness and spirituality in a fallen world. Although harsh, the story is depicted through a fresh lens of redemption and hope, reminiscent of the innocence conveyed in the book Room by Emma Donoghue. While the plot line is engaging, the skillfully woven internal conflict and personal growth of each character is the true focal point of the book. The reader is taken on a journey from a place of judgement to compassion as the story unfolds, reminding us that everyone has a backstory and it is wrong to condemn someone without walking a mile in their shoes. We each need a Church in the Wildwood, where we can forgive the past and say goodbye to the memories and relics that haunt us.


Alanna Rusnak is a wordsmith. She is both mistress and master of her craft. Everything she puts her pen to is magical, and The Church in the Wildwood is no exception. From the initial page to the last word the tale was gripping in pace, tension, and story; and the characters deep, and feeling. While unusual, and at times downright eerie, Joseph Carver, the young male protagonist, was simultaneously terrified and brave throughout; but it was his mother, Iris, who deftly stole the pages of this book for her own. I can't wait to read what's next from Alanna's desk, specifically 'The Ghost of Iris Carver', a companion novella to this little 'big' church that was built in her memory.
—Goodreads Reviewer

Alanna is such a lovely writer, her words are poetic and tragic but filled with hope. She deals with real darkness in The Church in the Wildwood but does so in such a beautiful way. This book left me with a smile on my face and a feeling of peace. I loved it.


A hauntingly beautiful tale by Alanna Rusnak. A lesson of alienation and belonging and finding of self. Well-written with exquisite exposition, Rusnak manages to write with a naked rawness that brings out the true depths of family and spirituality in a way that pulls the reader in, eager to join in the journey.


A beautifully woven tale exploring the complexity of relationships, family, and love. The story flows between two time periods, giving the reader a glimpse into some of the experiences that form beliefs and views of the world. Real characters with imperfections, depth and honest voices. A unique storyline that engages you from beginning to end.


This story weaves the lives of the characters in a beautifully tragic tale of love and rejection, hope and despair, abuse and healing. It is the classic story of the human needs to be understood, accepted and belong. Rusnak simultaneously tells the story of a young boy coming of age while his mother learns to move beyond her haunting past. The author crosses storylines from the past with the present to enlighten the reader of elements of the characters past that have shaped them into who they have become. The characters are flawed and scarred which gives them both tragic yet human qualities the reader can relate to. The plot moves slowly enough to really allow the reader to appreciate the beautiful imagery created by the author from the beginning to the end. Yet there are just enough twists and turns, characters, and drama to captivate the reader and carry them all the way through the story. It has poignant moments of heavy emotions where the characters wrestle with themselves and the world around them. The reader can't help but be drawn into the conflict. The Church in the Wildwood is a must-read for everyone looking for a story of humanity at its most broken AND its most redemptive.


Gorgeous and meaningful story! A wonderful plot that takes the reader on a deep journey with real-life struggles and an inspiring, realistic portrayal of abuse and relationships. Church In The Wildwood is not in-your-face religious or preachy: I'm an atheist and was totally engaged and enjoyed the book! The story leaves you feeling touched and inspired. Highly recommend!


...the book hit every emotional nerve possible

5.0 out of 5 stars - Love this book!!! I couldn't put it down. HERE is the thing with me, I struggle reading books. I find I usually can't comprehend what I'm reading. But with this book... I was sucked right in. The story made me anxious, sad, happy etc... I can't thank the author enough for being brave and sharing this story with the world.

—Amazon Reviewer
The journey I was taken on while reading this book was one that I hadn't expected. Not really a fan of anything religious, The Church in the Wildwood was a story entrenched in religion that wove itself into a tragic family history that spanned a few decades and generations. I went from thinking Joseph was strange and conniving to sweet to disturbed. Iris's upbringing is something right out of a horror story itself, ironically deeply routed in religion however the way she and her son live their lives is nothing short of a contradiction. The characters of Paisley, Samuel and Grace are all directly connected to Joseph and Iris in very different ways however it's how these characters interact with the other two is what makes this story so unforgettable. I'll admit that I couldn't put this book down, every new page revealed another train wreck waiting to happen, sometimes predictable, however I didn't think the predictability spoiled the story. I would recommend it. Happy reading!

—Goodreads Reviewer

...this book got me in all of the "feels". You are drawn into the unique characters right away and find yourself joining in both their heartache and happiness... even found myself in tears a few times!! Just when you think you know what might happen next your are in for a surprise. A definite read!!

—Instagram

 

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© Alanna Rusnak