Note: The Bookie Monster first published the following review on Feb. 17.
The young adult paranormal drama “Escape from Witchwood Hollow” by Jordan Elizabeth is a moving story about a teenage girl dealing with the loss of her parents and trying to cope in a world without the people she loves. Curiosity Quills Press published the novel on Oct. 29, 2014.
The protagonist is 15-year-old Honoria, a girl who lost her parents in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. The story begins the following month in October when Honoria and her older brother have moved from the city with their aunt and uncle to a small rural town called Arnn, where the nearby woods of Witchwood Hollow are believed to be haunted. The region’s folklore describes a witch who lives in the woods and traps the souls of the lost.
At her new school, Honoria meets Amanda and Harley who describe the woods and challenge her to venture into the haunted forest. Intrigued, Honoria sneaks out of her house one night and walks into the woods where she feels like she has a supernatural encounter.
The story then flashes back in time to a series of scenes set in the 1600s and 1800s, weaving the hollow’s past into the present. The book starts telling the stories of three women living in different time periods: Honoria in 2001, the witch in 1670, and an English girl named Albertine in 1850.
Honoria begins learning about the hollow’s legacy when she meets a local boy named Leon, who’s interested in history and reveals documents from the past chronicling Albertine’s story, an English girl who disappeared in the woods of Witch Hollow in the mid-1800s.
Honoria then visits the historical society and learns about the witch named Lady Clifford and the ashes of the witch’s husband Andrew. The witch supposedly has the power to resurrect people if their ashes are delivered to her. When a family friend from the city visits Arnn for Halloween, he brings ashes from the World Trade Center site, hoping to give Honoria and her brother closure. However, Honoria wonders if the witch could bring her parents back to life with the ashes.
The tale of the witch Lady Clifford describes a woman who never ages as long as she remains in Witchwood Hollow, but who also lives a sad, lonely existence. She encounters a beaver trapper named Andrew who she convinces to stay and build her a house. They marry and have a child, but her husband Andrew wants to take their daughter Patience away from the isolation and give her a life.
Lady Clifford allows them to leave but chooses to remain in the hollow. She prefers to stay young and reside in loneliness instead of living with her family outside the magical barrier. Her fear of aging and dying is strong. At one point in the story, one of the characters that the witch encounters tells her, “Staying young is not everything.” Lady Clifford isn’t convinced and attempts to trap lost souls in the woods, trying to make them stay and become her new family.
The flashback to 1850 is about a teenager from England named Albertine who receives a ticket to journey to America to marry a man and live on a farm next to her father. She leaves her younger sister Mary-Anne behind with the promise to send for her one day.
Albertine arrives in New York but must wait for her father to return to town. Not content to stay, Albertine decides to walk to the farm. She’s told it’s not safe and to avoid the woods. She leaves anyway and gets lost in the woods. While there, Albertine meets other strangers lost in Witchwood Hollow, including a young boy who thinks the year is 1812, a Union soldier who tells her it’s 1863 not 1850, and another young girl who claims she lost her way in 1791.
“Escape from Witchwood Hollow” gradually transforms into an emotional story about young women who want to see their families again no matter what the cost. The book also explores questions about youth versus aging. Interestingly, Honoria’s life parallels the witch’s existence and the other lost souls because they’re all living without the people they love.
The climax of “Escape from Witchwood Hollow” is abrupt and shocking, especially after the author so carefully maintains the three timelines throughout the book. However, the ending shows how quickly life can change much like it did on Sept. 11, 2001. The ending also reinforces another message in the story: “Killing when you don’t have to is stupid.” Ultimately, the most powerful message in the book is the one we hope our deceased loved ones would deliver if they could: “Be with me later. Go live for now.”