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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

A Light in the Forest

ISBN: 9781662503689

Publisher: Lake Union

Publication Date: 12/13/2022

Format: Paperback

My Rating: 4 Stars (ARC)

From Melissa Payne, bestselling author of The Night of Many Endings, comes an emotional and suspenseful novel about the weight of secrets and the healing power of friends and family.

Vega Jones escapes an abusive relationship with nothing but her two-month-old baby and the van she grew up in. Her destination is a small Ohio town her late vagabond mother left years ago. It’s one full of nobodies, her mother warned. That makes it the ideal refuge for Vega to lie low, feel safe, and maybe learn more about a past her mother never spoke of.

Vega warms to the town and to new acquaintances like Heff, the young deputy and artist who prefers his yard art to actual policing, and empathetic Eve, a local farmer whose near-death experience gave her more than just her life back. But even in this welcoming community, there’s an undercurrent of something unsettled, talk of a tragedy that unfolded in the woods years ago, and a mystery connected to Vega in ways she couldn’t have anticipated.

As a mother on the run and following a path of mounting risks and illuminating secrets, Vega discovers that even during the darkest of times, there’s light in unexpected places.

My Review

Melissa Payne returns following The Night of Many Endings with her latest, A LIGHT IN THE FOREST —a gripping, emotional story of a woman's search for solace for herself and her child while discovering mysterious secrets of her past and finding new friends.

A heartrending story about the power of friendship during the most challenging moments in life.

Vega resides in Colorado and is on the run with her two-month-old baby Riley, escaping her abusive boyfriend, Zach. She heard her mother's voice in her head telling her to RUN!

She has no clue where to go, but she has a postcard from her mother's belongings in a small town in Ohio. She sets out to find this place and seek safety.

Her mother was quite the bohemian, and they spent her childhood in a van traveling, helping other women escape abusive men with new identities. If only her mother were alive now to help her.

The two of them were female vigilantes in a world of abusive men. Vega had grown up seeing the truth of what happened behind closed doors. They always kept moving, never staying anywhere long enough to make friends. So she has no one.

Her mother never talked about her father. She was always cryptic.

Of course, Zach is tracking her, so she must get rid of her phone. She must try and reach this town called Crystal in the hills of Ohio.

Her mom, Renee, had said it was a nothing town full of nobodies, which sounded like the perfect place to hide.

Vega finds an apartment for rent over a shop and meets various people and friends. But there is still something unsettling— a past tragedy from years and a mysterious connection.

From past to present, as a young mother on the run, she learns there is light in unexpected places. I enjoyed the supporting characters, shop owner Eve, Carl and Mary, and the local guy, Heff, who all became like family.

A novel of perseverance, survival, and friendship. A blending of domestic suspense, mystery, and women's friendship.

In the end, Vega discovers that even during the darkest times, there’s light in unexpected places. I enjoyed the two timelines and learning about the mom and the town's past.

For fans of authors: Suzanne Redfearn, Elizabeth Berg, and Catherine Ryan Hyde. (all favorites)

Some dark topics are explored: trauma, domestic abuse, violence, sexual abuse, animal cruelty, homophobia, and near-death experience.

An inspiring story, wonderfully written and full of profound observations about life. Community and family are only sometimes blood-related, and you often find second chances where you least expect them.

Look forward to reading more from this author.

Thank you to #LakeUnion and #NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks

My Rating: 4 Stars

Pub Date: Dec 13, 2022


“The authentic characters and their realistic struggles make this introspective tale entirely believable. Vega’s resilience is sure to endear her to readers.” Publishers Weekly

About the Author

Photo by Eric Weber Studios

Melissa Payne is the bestselling and award-winning author of The Secrets of Lost Stones, Memories in the Drift, and The Night of Many Endings. For as long as she can remember, Melissa has been telling stories in one form or another―from high school newspaper articles to a graduate thesis to blogging about marriage and motherhood. But she first learned the real importance of storytelling when she worked for a residential and day treatment center for abused and neglected children, where she wrote speeches and letters to raise funds. The truth in those children’s stories was piercing and painful, written to invoke a call to action in the reader: to give, to help, and to make a difference. Melissa’s love of writing and sharing stories in all forms has endured. She lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains with her husband and three children, a friendly mutt, a very loud cat, and the occasional bear. For more information, visit

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