By its midpoint Forager fully becomes the trauma memoir only hinted at in the opening pages ... Because the book is so focused on the 10 years during which she was fully a member of the Field, an atmosphere of ambivalence hangs over the narrative ... Yet Dowd’s story surfaces a bitter irony. The wisdom and resolve she required to leave the Field — her survival skills — were taught through lessons designed to keep her there. The book is stronger in some ways for leaving that irony unspoken ... Every chapter in Forager opens with a brief description of a native plant she knew well in the forest: pine cones, succulents, berries, weeds, lichen. Though short, they do some serious metaphorical labor, trained on matters of hardiness and sustenance.
Uneven but still affecting ... It involves another fascinating and ever-popular topic: a cult ... For the first half of the book, Dowd’s disorienting, cherry-picked accounts of these types of events make her childhood seem a little … odd, sure. But it didn’t strike me as anything outside the realm of what a cult upbringing might entail ... Like many books of its ilk, Forager might not be the best pick for the impatient, rational-minded reader. For example, by the time I closed the back cover, I wished I had more specifics sooner about the people in Dowd’s immediate orbit ... The long passages of quoted scripture, though used to provide context, might cause some eyes to glaze over, too. But ultimately, Dowd’s tell-all about coming of age, overcoming her past and embracing a new path forward succeeds in what it sets out to do: remind readers that it is indeed possible to transcend a bad situation in order to find one’s own version of truth.