As a reminder, from now on, our monthly discussions will be both here on the OwlCrate blog AND on The Nest! Go check out Amber's discussion that will be full of fun extras!
On each day we'll read a section of After The Forest on the blog and in The Nest's discussion group. You can find a book club style discussion on The Nest app, and an insider's view to curation and my thoughts on our book here on the blog.
Just a reminder that this post will be a SPOILER FILLED recap for chapters 1-4 of After The Forest, so make sure you read or are finished this section before continuing.
We meet a young woman, Greta Rosenthal, who is smoking wild honey from a hive in a tree. She falls from the tree and is knocked unconscious. When she comes to, a black bear is licking the honey from her fingers.
Greta closes her eyes and repeats a prayer her mother taught to her. Eventually she opens her eyes to see the bear has left.
She makes her way down the hill and stumbles across a child who is hiding from her parents. Her name is Brigitta and Greta tries to shush her. She tells her that she doesn't want to get lost in the woods like Greta when she was little and Brigitta asks her if that was when she found the house made of gingerbread.
It's then that Brigitta's sister Ingrid comes looking for her and warns them that it's not safe. Two woodcutters have been mauled to death in a forest nearby.
This makes Greta think of the little peace their region has had in the last thirty years, and of the starving soldiers that have roved the land, attacking villages.
Brigitta tells Ingrid she was worried that Greta was going to harm her. Greta is taken aback but remembers what the village women think of her, and her past.
Brigitta brings up that Greta did once kill an old woman by stuffing her into an oven.
Greta tells her she thought she was a sensible girl. Ingrid snaps back that everyone knows that witches are real and that Greta can't blame the child for being fanciful when Greta roams the forest wild-like.
Then they tease her for having red hair and tell her that soon she'll be leaving Lindenfield anyway because Greta's brother will have gambled their house away.
Brigitta tells her that Herr Hueber wants his money from Greta's brother in three days time. Greta mentally calculates how much she's going to be able to make at the market on her gingerbread.
She again asks Brigitta if she knows how much but all she says is that it's for the best and that it would probably be different if Greta had a husband.
But no one wants to marry a witch.
Greta goes to a mountain stream to wash but loses her stays in the current. Downstream a tall and rugged man with dark hair is also bathing and sees Greta. He grabs her stays and tells her not to fear him.
Greta takes his graciously offered cloak and tells him he can get it back a bit down the road at her brother's cottage.
She leaves, making her way home to their humble house. Inside there are few belongings. Just some chairs, a worn table, woven rugs, and gingerbread molds. But there is also a book. A sassy, sentient book that talks to Greta about where she has been.
Greta then decides to put the book away for safety and go find her brother, Hans. She wants to ask him how much he has gambled.
She goes into the village to the tavern but is not allowed inside as an unmarried woman. She considers who may also be aware of her brother's dealings and goes to the burgermeister, Herr Hueber's home, but he is not there…
Greta's saucy minx of a book tells her to place a drop of her blood into the gingerbread mix to get any man to do her bidding.
She tells it no.
There's a rap at the door and it's Herr Hueber in all his yellow-teethed, high-heeled fine form. Greta greets him and asks how much money his brother owes from the gambling. He tells her, and it's a large sum.
Greta assures him that they'll pay and he scoffs at her. He tells her that there is always a space at his house to work for him as a maidservant.
He touches her waist and Greta nopes right out of that one. She shows him out and warns him to stay away from the enormous bear outside. This causes him to catch a fright and tumble backwards down her front step.
Later, after a night of little sleep, her brother returns with a black eye from the debtors. They discuss his gambling and he tells her to be more careful with her shoes.
Greta is confused because she lost her shoes in her tumble down the mountain. But they are there and they have heavy silver coins in them.
The spicy magic book tells her that where it's from, men place coins into women's shoes to show their intent.
And it once again reminds her that with a little blood, she could be well on her way to changing her life.
Greta tells the book to shush and act like a respectful recipe book instead.
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