Lydian Faust uses an intensive, boundary-pushing therapy session to frame her debut novella Forest Underground. The book’s “action” occurs mostly in the content of testimony and memory, but what Faust underlines most explicitly is the unexpected connection between two traumatized women—the doctor and the patient.
I’m impressed by Faust’s decision to use this structural approach to tell this story—she maneuvers through both the frame narrative and the use of multiple P.O.V.s with confidence and style. The novella benefits from her choice, because the closing revelations necessitate that readers are familiar with both main characters’ backstories.
Faust plays gleefully with many of the horror genre’s tropes—she delivers on the perverse/sacred space for ritual murder, dark familial pasts, forbidden asylum rooms, and the indeterminate line between perception and reality. She seems to be as interested in horror’s applications to her characters as she is in the characters themselves.
There are a number of noteworthy things going on in this book, not least of which is Faust’s deliberate choice to navigate tricky structural terrain. There’s also an obvious interest in human psychology and the lasting impact of trauma and violence, and a sense for the ways in which horror can accomplish things not available to other genres.