The horrific challenges these people endured and how they were tempered by the fire of their circumstances moved me and kept me turning each page with eagerness.
Jean Hegland paints a dystopian landscape that is painfully close to reality. She creates a strong foundation and builds out the rooms of this story, brick by brick. Her use of language is reminiscent of Barbara Kingsolver’s, yet distinctly her own creation.
Relationships are tested, twisted and nearly broken apart, only to heal and become stronger. At its core, it is a story about the love the grows out of the hearts and minds of one family, embodied most clearly in the relationship between the two sisters, Nell, and Eva. They live with their father and free-spirited mother on an isolated farm in a fictionalized location the redwoods of Northern California.
I reveled in the details and patience with which she painted this world. A strong connection to nature permeates the story. The rhythm of her language flows like a strong clear stream. She deftly amplifies the emotional landscape within Nell and Eva contrasting it with their external reality, seasonal transformations that offered bounty and danger in equal measure.
These are unique, smart, quirky people. Each has gifts and blind spots. Through it all, they are enmeshed with each other like the roots of the forest trees and plants that surround them.
It is a coming of age tale of survival. The principal characters are far from perfect. They stumble as they learn how to exist in a world where nothing comes easily except for being true to their innermost selves.
I ached with pain as I read each new struggle. I laughed and wept as the two typical teenage girls discover boys and who they are meant to be. Their lives are turned inside out and yet they find a way to do more than simply exist. These girls are resourceful at times, frightened, and always real.
I could imagine myself in their world where technology and civilization as we know it disintegrates.
It is a well-told tale and left me wanting more.
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