53 pages 1 hour read

Tana French

In the Woods

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2007

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The One Left Behind

Even though Rob has blocked the memory of how his friends disappeared, their absence colors his life. As an adult, he frequently wonders why he was the one left behind. Rather than seeing his trauma as a random accident, he draws several different self-damaging conclusions as to why he alone survived.

At one point, he blames the fact that he was heavier than his friends and couldn’t run as fast. That was why they left him behind on the day they disappeared. At another point, he feels he was somehow unworthy as a sacrifice:

Sometimes I think about the sly, flickering line that separates being spared from being rejected. Sometimes I think of the ancient gods who demanded that their sacrifices be fearless and without blemish, and I wonder whether, whoever or whatever took Peter and Jamie away, it decided I wasn’t good enough. (435)

As the one left behind, Rob keenly feels the loss of his camaraderie with Peter and Jamie. He instinctively reconstructs this bond with Cassie. The parallel intensifies when Sam joins their circle. Their casual evening get-togethers come quite close to mimicking the warmth and pleasure Rob felt in the company of his childhood friends.

However, Rob can never forget that he lost his friends suddenly and without warning.