The House in the Pines by Ana Reyes

Reviewed by Wendy Lipke

This book is the first to be published by Ana Reyes and has developed from the thesis for her M.F.A. program at Louisiana State University. The book became Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club January 2023 choice. An industry review says that this book is ‘powerfully eerie and atmospheric. A compelling mix of psychological thriller and dark fairytale’. With my initial read, I was unsure what it was all about. It sounded like the imaginings of a young woman as she tried to wean herself off prescription drugs and reduce her alcohol intake. And indeed, this is how many in the story perceived the situation.

In her story Ana Reyes has taken a different perspective and instead of putting the focus on who and why someone committed the crime, (if in fact there was a crime), she moves the plot to how the crime might have been committed.  The key character, Maya, is half Guatemalan, a quarter Irish and a quarter Italian. This heritage allows the writer to make a detour from the main storyline and highlight Guatemalan political history and culture. Within this history she alludes to the manipulation of one party by another. In this case it is the Mayan people who were marginalised by giant corporations. The theme of manipulation is revealed to be at the centre of this work.

The story also throws attention on drug dependency, and the impact this can have on a person’s behaviour and credibility. This author in her storytelling explores how past events can impact our lives for so long and how our memories can let us down.

The prologue draws the reader into the story as it is written in the first person with the message – ‘This is how the world was once… And this is why you do it’ (2). What happened and how bad was it?

Maya once spent time with a lad called Frank and she is quite convinced that he is somehow responsible for the death of her friend who died very suddenly in Frank’s presence. However, she cannot work out how he managed it. This feeling is reinforced when, some time later, she sees a video of Frank sitting across from another girl who also suddenly dies. She is haunted by these two deaths, but she is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery.

The story flashes back and forth between different incidents from the present and the past and I have to admit there were many times I was at a momentary loss as to where in Maya’s life story I was meant to be. The way Maya is perceived by others, even her own mother, also caused some confusion. One really needs to read the book then go back and read it again in the light of knowing what happened. Events would appear much clearer with this knowledge.

When discovering what really happened, I was quite shocked to think that such a happening might have substance.

I cannot say that I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story. However, through doing so, I am left with several things to think about and probably this is the value of the work. I was however, fascinated with some of the similes the author used. ‘Dawn sprang in like lions through the window’ (180). This to me seemed a little far-fetched and I really did wonder how often such a thing might occur.

The title of the book is The House in the Pines, and this house takes centre stage in the story, yet in a very strange way. Deep in the woods, ‘there is a house that’s easy to miss. Most people, in fact, would take one look and insist it’s not there’ (1).

The book is certainly worth a read, and many will find the eeriness and atmosphere of a psychological thriller like some in the industry. The writer leaves the reader with lingering musings about some aspects of modern society.

The House in the Pines


by Ana Reyes


ISBN: 978-1-4087-1769-1

$32.99; 334pp

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