This is one of those books that on paper shouldn’t be any good at all, but in execution is sad and lovely and quietly powerful. I feel like it should come with a warning, though, as based on the pastoral-looking cover, I didn’t realize it was going to be as devastating as it was.
Eight-year-old Peggy journeys with her father to a remote cabin in the woods. He tells her that a cataclysmic event has ended the world outside their forest, and they are the only ones left. We know from the beginning that isn’t true, because the novel includes sections set years in the future, when Peggy has returned to her old home with her mother in London, and the world has very much continued on without her. Why her father told her this and the impact his lie will have on her life are slowly, almost painstakingly, revealed.
Because yes, I’ll admit the book is slow, in a way. It reads quickly, but the revelations are doled out piecemeal. It’s like following a trail of breadcrumbs—perhaps an apt comparison, considering it’s a book about a girl literally lost in the woods. And the closer you get to the end, the more you start to shrink away from the truth you know you’ll find, because it won’t be anything good. Stories of parents kidnapping and lying to their own children rarely end with everyone hugging it out. But Claire Fuller is a skilled technician—she knows her story well and the right way to tell it for maximum impact.
This was my choice for book club this month, and if I may pat myself on the back, I think it was a pretty good one. Not everyone will like it—style wise and content wise, it’s bound to rub some readers the wrong way. But it will provide plenty of fodder for discussion, which is what I usually look for in a book club pick.