Turner, Luke. “Out of the Woods”, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2019.
Sex, Nature, Religion and Love
Luke Turner was a man with demons and they had been with him since childhood. He was able to deal with them for a while when he was in an important and significant relationship but once the relationship fell apart, the demons returned. Among them were depression and guilt surrounding his identity as a bisexual man, experiences of sexual abuse, and the religious upbringing that was the cause of so much confusion. He sought refuge among the trees of London’s Epping Forest but once what had been a place of comfort, now seems full of unexpected, elusive threats that trigger twisted reactions.
Nonetheless, Luke finds himself drawn again and again to the woods and he is eager to learn the strange secrets that may be buried there as he investigates an old family rumor of “illicit behavior.” While away from a society that still struggles to cope with the complexities of masculinity and sexuality, Luke is able to begin to accept the duality that has provoked so much unrest in his life and to reconcile the expectations of others with his own way of being.
This is Luke Turner’s memoir that awes us and scares us at the same time. It is about “the irresistible yet double-edged potency of the forest, and the possibility of learning to find peace in the grey areas of life.” It is a courageous book in which we can sense the author’s pain and courage in writing it. Turner is a writer who thinks (probably a bit too much) and he shares those thoughts with us. It is hard to believe that this is his first book. It is eloquent and real and makes us think and it is beautifully written. Turner conveys his feelings about relationships, the nature of obsession, lust, masculinity, faith and lost innocence and he does not flinch. He writes with sexual energy about sexual energy and he reminds us about the dangers of concealment and suppression and tells us how important it is to make what was hidden known. We readily go with Turner into his forest and face his struggles with bisexuality, religion and love by his side. I was devastated and renewed at the same time.