A book review by Brad Proctor

The above quote lingered with me while reading INTO THE FOREST AND ALL THE WAY THROUGH, a collection of true crime poetry, by Cynthia Pelayo. These poems explore the cases of over one hundred missing and murdered women from across the United States. This book was really unlike anything I have read before. Sure, I have read true crime stories but this one felt different, more tangible, more real, like in some way I knew these women, these victims. There was a palpable sense of dread and forlornness staining these pages.

Usually when it comes to true crime the focus is all on the suspects, the perpetrator, the guilty. Everyone knows their names, can recognize the faces of evil in those mugshots, but when it comes to the victims, those whose lives and hopes and dreams were greedily snatched away from them, we don’t know their names, can’t pick their picture out of a lineup. Why is that? Why do we as a society have such a fascination with these murderers, these serial killers, that they obtain near celebrity status? Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Shouldn’t we instead focus on the victims of these crimes? I can name off Bundy, Gacy, Rader, and on and on, but I cannot give you the name of one of any of their victims. It is a sad truth. What Pelayo is able to accomplish here is different, her sole focus is shining a spotlight on these women who have been murdered, who have disappeared without a trace. This felt like a tribute, a memorial to show reverence to these women and their families. 

“You live only as long as the last person who remembers you.”

It feels a bit weird to say that I loved these poems being what the subject matter is. The writing was at times beautiful while at others hauntingly chilling. I was left with this sense of hollowness, an overwhelming feeling of melancholy maybe, whenever I would finish a poem and then read the woman’s name, and race, and age, and date when they were last seen. There is a certain weight, a heaviness, a gravity to Pelayo’s words that made me sit back and really think about, wonder about what truly happened to these women. To these mothers and daughters, sisters and wives, aunts and grandmothers. Of all of the lives that were shattered in an instance, irrevocably changed forever. It is as if they walked into a thick wall of fog and vanished without a trace, never to be seen again. For me that would be the worst thing, the not knowing. Waking up everyday and wondering if my loved one was still out there somewhere, living in pain, or is their body just waiting to be found in a field, in a chimney, in a roadside ditch somewhere?

There was not one poem in the collection that didn’t resonate with me in some way, but I want to highlight the ones that really stuck out for me.

Remember Me

Search Continues, Notes From A Blog

You Have Always Watched Me

The Sun Rises in the Night

The Demons You Live With

Lady of the Lake

You Are Not Looking, I Am Right Here

Movement Through a Telescope

Abandoned Buildings

She Stands on the Grove

Blackberry Bushes

Shotgun Jane Doe

U.S. Route 29

I could go on but I don’t want to list every poem from the entire book.

Emotionally powerful and sombre. Within INTO THE FOREST AND ALL THE WAY THROUGH Cynthia Pelayo gives a voice to the voiceless, tending to the flame of that candlelight vigil, making sure that the names of these women do not fade away with time. That their memory can live on inside the minds of the readers, and not become just another statistic, another one of the forgotten. You will feel these poems in your bones, in your soul, pulling you along into the forest and all the way through to the other side, where maybe somewhere, someday, justice can be found. This is a collection that will stick with me long after having closed that final page.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration.

Rating: 5 out of 5.


Cynthia “Cina” Pelayo is the author of LOTERIA, SANTA MUERTE, THE MISSING, and POEMS OF MY NIGHT, all of which have been nominated for International Latino Book Awards. POEMS OF MY NIGHT was also nominated for an Elgin Award. .You can follow Cynthia on Twitter, and Instagram.


Book reviewer & Booktuber who focuses mostly on small press & indie horror, sci-fi, fantasy, & southern literature. you can follow Brad on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube.

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