Pursell’s writing, lyric and compressed, delivers stories best read in stages, so as not to miss a single note. There’s a lot of urgency packed into these small spaces ... Pursell writes girls the way they need to be seen. They are searching, fraught, even lost, but they are also insightful, whip-smart, and do not have the time for your condescension, because they are busy dealing with the storms life has delivered upon them. Neither sentimental nor overtly political, these stories, while lyrical, land so close to the bone, they hurt ... where the first collection works as an evidence file documenting what it means to move through life as a woman, A Girl Goes into the Woods delves deeper, expanding dimensionally ... The shorter stories, lean and muscular, feel the most rewarding.
... altogether a different sort of feat from epic storytelling for an author to communicate all she wants to say in such a limited fashion and to trust that the reader will follow with her ... Most of the stories in this book have female protagonists, and while they are all flawed, Pursell treats them with more care—as in the mothers who lost their daughters—than the fewer male protagonists ... Pursell’s economy of words often left me wanting more. This isn’t a criticism; instead, I feel it’s the key to this collection’s magic. I am normally a very fast reader, but I had to take a lot of time to pause and process. I often felt like I wasn’t smart enough to fully comprehend what I had just read ... while I was, admittedly, sometimes frustrated, I was more often fascinated. Especially as rereading brought emphasis to new words, often suddenly unlocking a passage I struggled with.
... shines light on the transitions and transformations we go through in life and the changing relationships between parents and children ... Although there is no dramatic action of a typical fairy tale, this is not a criticism. Pursell’s stories offer glimpses into lives that are as deep and rewarding as longer work. It is her shortest stories, some just a paragraph long, that are the most powerful. Pursell is a master of the flash fiction form, knowing which details to reveal and the moments that convey so much more than what is written on the page. Each of these stories opens up an entire life in these small spaces delivering characters that contain secrets and dreams and embody the complicated yet wonderful mess of being alive ... What makes A Girl Goes into the Forest a true pleasure to read as a whole collection is that when reading these stories there is a sense of time passing, detailing the impact of the shifting stages of life ... Pursell is allowing the reader to peer into many different photos and view worlds that shift and transform—in dark and terrifying ways and lovely and comforting ways.