Forest Dark Summary & Study Guide

Krauss, Nicole
This Study Guide consists of approximately 53 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Forest Dark.
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Forest Dark Summary & Study Guide Description

Forest Dark Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on Forest Dark by Krauss, Nicole.

The following version of this book was used to create this study guide: Krauss, Nicole. Forest Dark. HarperCollins, 2017.

The novel begins in Israel, where 68-year-old Jules Epstein's children have gathered after their father's inexplicable disappearance. Jules had recently been troubled by the loss of both of his parents and began acting strangely, giving away his expensive possessions, and then moving to Israel. The novel flashes back to shortly before Jules' trip to Tel Aviv. He attends a conference for peace in the Middle East where he meets a man named Rabbi Klausner, who informs Jules that he is a descendant of the biblical David, King of Israel.

Next, the novel introduces Nicole, a 39-year-old author living in Brooklyn with her husband and children. Nicole feels trapped in a dull life of domesticity and incompatibility with her husband, and longs for something more in her life. After hearing a story on the radio about the multiverse theory, Nicole begins to imagine that she is asleep in the Tel Aviv Hilton Hotel, dreaming her present life. When her father's cousin Effie calls her and casually mentions that someone recently died at this hotel, by either jumping or falling from a balcony, Nicole takes this as a sign that she should go to Tel Aviv. Once there, Effie introduces her to a friend of his, Eliezer Friedman. Friedman, a retired literature professor, takes Nicole for a walk around the city and shows her an apartment building. Inside the ground floor apartment, he explains, are the unpublished works of author Franz Kafka. Kafka's friend bequeathed these works to his mistress, who in turn left them to her daughter, Eva Hoffe. Friedman would like Nicole to write an ending for an unfinished Kafka play in Hoffe's possession.

Jules and Rabbi Klausner are on the same flight to Tel Aviv. Klausner invites Jules to a reunion he is organizing for the descendants of David, and to visit his spiritual retreat, a facility in Safed he calls “Gilgul” (113). At Gilgul, Jules reflects on his complicated relationship with his parents and his inability, thus far, to secure a proper legacy to honor their lives. Klausner explains that “Gilgul” means “'cycle'” or “'wheel'” in Hebrew, and refers to “the transmigration of the soul” (160). Jules accidentally walks in on a woman bathing.

Despite insisting that she cannot undertake the task of finishing the Kafka play, Nicole agrees to accompany Friedman to the Dead Sea. On this trip, Friedman tells Nicole a bizarre story about Franz Kafka having faked his own death. Supposedly, after contracting tuberculosis, Kafka, who had become a Zionist, fled to Palestine with the help of his friend Max Brod (who later gave Kafka's unpublished documents to his mistress, Eva Hoffe's mother). Kafka spent his remaining days in Palestine/Israel on a kibbutz in the desert. Friedman mentions that the Hebrew translation of Kafka's story “The Metamorphosis” is “Ha Gilgul” (194). They go to Eva Hoffe's apartment and Friedman emerges with a suitcase. Shortly thereafter, Friedman and Nicole are stopped at a military checkpoint and separated. Nicole is driven into the desert and left with the suitcase at a remote shack.

Jules dreams of a forest, and decides to plant one in honor of his parents. After organizing this with the National Jewish Fund, he receives a visitor at the Tel Aviv Hilton. It is the woman from the bath at Gilgul, Klausner's daughter Yael. She has brought Jules information from the King David reunion, which he did not attend. She informs Jules that she is making a movie about the life of David. He is fascinated with her and with the movie, and she introduces him to the rest of her crew. Jules accompanies the filmmakers into the desert where they are shooting. When the actor meant to play an elderly David fails to arrive for filming, Jules dons the wardrobe and steps in to play the role. While the crew argues about lighting, however, Jules removes David's cloak and walks off into the desert. He is never seen again.

Meanwhile, at the desert shack, Nicole realizes she is feverish. She has a strange feeling that she is “falling out of time” (259) and experiencing a “supreme moment” (259). After several days of somewhat hallucinatory thought, Nicole begins to feel well again, and walks into the desert with the suitcase. Finding it cumbersome to carry, she drops it there, never verifying its contents. She is picked up by a taxi driver and taken to a Tel Aviv hospital. After convalescing, she calls Tel Aviv University, supposedly Friedman's former employer, and finds they have never heard of him. She returns to the Hilton, where sitting by the pool one day, she witnesses a man jump to his death from one of the balconies. When she returns to Brooklyn, she leaves her husband.

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