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The Boy From The Woods
BY Harlan Coben

Grand Central Publishing
March 17, 2019/ ISBN 9781538748145

Reviewed by Elise Cooper


The Boy From The Woods by Harlan Coben has many ingredients to it. It touches on politics, power, romance, bullying, guilt, family, and how social status can either help or hurt a person.

“When I start to write a book, I think about what I want to emphasize. In this one, I wanted to cover fake news, extremism, cult leaders, and moral obligations. I know the beginning and ending of a story, and what I think about just flows into the book. When I write a book, I am like a boxer. I do not save any punches for the next time around. One of those topics highlighted is bullying. There is always that person who is picked up on, which is not something new in today’s world. I wondered how they could make it through the day with this terrible treatment. I think it is worse now. Years ago, before social media, those bullied had a reprise when they went home.”

The book opens with a character resembling a Jungle Book personality, Mowgli. Thirty years ago, a boy who was eventually named Wilde was found with no memory of his past as he came out of the woods. He became friends with David, the son of Hester Crimstein, a television criminal attorney. After David died in a car accident, Wilde became a “step-father” to Matthew. Worried about a bullied classmate, Matthew approaches his grandmother, Hester, and Wilde, fearing that something disastrous has happened to Naomi. As Wilde and Hester ratchet up their investigative skills to find Naomi, another youth goes missing as the plot thickens.

Readers will enjoy learning about Wilde’s backstory. In 1986 a boy approximately six years old was found living on his own in the woods near Westville, N.J. Raised in foster care, he excelled in school and even more so in the military where he was a member of an elite group taking part in secret missions, after graduating from West Point. Now, as an adult, he remains somewhat reclusive and continues to live in the forest in an eco-friendly but technologically advanced pod-like structure that can be moved around at will.

“I got the idea for this character while I was hiking in the woods. I saw a 5 or 6-year-old boy walking around. The “what if” took over, and I thought about a boy who would come out of the woods and not remember anything. He basically raised himself and is kind of feral. Even thirty years later, no one ever claimed him. After being found, he was compared to a Tarzan or Mowgli. This became the seed for the story. Wilde, as the boy was called, is most comfortable in the woods, since he does not connect very well. I think he is quiet, fiercely loyal, caring, strong, athletic, and anti-social.”

Although this book has a hodgepodge of sub-plots, the main plot is riveting. Readers can easily connect with the engrossing characters and will want more stories involving Wilde and Hester. They are deeply invested and want to know what will happen to them next.

Reviewed 2020