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  • Writer's pictureMandy McHugh

Five Gut-Wrenching Stars: Into the Forest and All the Way Through, Cina Pelayo

I've had this on my tbr pretty much since I saw that gorgeous cover, and I finally got the chance to dive in.

Finished it in one sitting. Devoured. Ached.

In this haunting collection of poems, Pelayo draws inspiration from real cases of missing women and children across the US. In her introduction, she discusses how widespread this issue is, how long-lasting, and how given these parameters, it only stands to reason that someone knows something.

Someone knows.

I can still remember the first time I knew what missing person meant. Her name was Carol Ann Woods, and her story was all over the news. My friends and I made posters and hung them around our neighborhood. Perhaps this is what spawned my interest into the unknown, since almost thirty years later, I still remember her name and how it felt to consider my own safety, or lack thereof.

Pelayo's writing is succinct, heart-wrenching, and incredibly visceral. She breathes life into these victims, their families, and the aftermath while simultaneously tethering us to their tragedies. For me, "Home Was So Close" struck so many cords because it happened in my hometown. I was thirteen when Suzanne Lyall disappeared, and I remember seeing her face on the news. I've passed the bus stop where she was last scene hundreds of times. Her parents started a center to help people deal with the grief of missing loved ones.

I have a feeling there will be a poem like this for pretty much everyone who reads Into the Forest, and Pelayo masterfully constructs a web of sorrow, giving insight and paying respect while forcing you to question how this is still happening. It will make you feel things. It will rip your heart out.


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