The Endless Forest
by Sara Donati
Published by Delacorte Press
I have been an unabashed fan of Elizabeth Middleton Bonner’s and Nathaniel Bonner’s family saga since first opening Into the Wilderness. The Endless Forest is Sara Donati’s (aka Rosina Lippi) farewell to the indomitable Bonner family. Yes, I wept. Difficult not to weep over the passing of old friends, even if they are fictional.
The book starts with a monologue directed toward the reader from Curiosity Freeman, a manumitted slave and resident of Paradise, the New York village which is home to the Bonners. Curiosity is a family friend and healer/midwife under whose wing most of the Bonners flourish along with Curiosity’s own family and the rest of the village. This monologue of Curiosity’s and a story she later tells about Elizabeth’s mother and the early days of the village itself frames the continuing stories of those with whom we have become close to through Donati’s/Lippi’s four other books.
I refer to the indomitability of the Bonner family - they are, in fact, almost too perfect throughout the books. If it weren’t that they were all so terribly stubborn (Something I share in abundance! *cough*) I think I’d have tossed the first book against the wall and never made it to the last. And Curiosity- well, her homey wisdom can be downright annoying at times. It was, therefore, a relief to find in her revelatory storytelling about Elizabeth’s mother and true father that she was less than perfect. Well, a little less. Curiosity is whole-heartedly forgiven, while Jemima, the family’s nemesis, was certainly not forgiven despite the fact that Jemima had little chance of becoming more than what she became. Curiosity definitely had a choice of what to do and chose a judgment that became a burden for her and defined the lives of Elizabeth and many others. Curiosity was the manumitted slave, but Jemima never managed to free herself from her blighted past.
The Endless Forest was a satisfying ending to this much-loved series. The epilogue of newspaper articles, including obituaries, about the extended Bonner family and other Paradise residents was a treat that we don’t often get with a series such as this.