Brooke's Pick: The New Wilderness by Diane Cook
A mother desperate to save her dying daughter in a world ravaged by climate change joins a hunter-gatherer initiative to test humanity's capacity to survive in the wilderness without destroying it.
Diane Cook's debut novel, The New Wilderness, is a dystopian cli-fi novel that follows a group of pioneers as they travel around the "wilderness state," an area of land protected from a population ravaged by pollution and desolation in a crumbling city that most call home. So why is this group allowed to travel the wilderness? They have been selected to participate in a study led by a group of Rangers who give our nomads instructions for traveling the land and ensure that they follow the rules set forth in the Manual.
The New Wilderness spotlights Bea and her daughter Agnes. Agnes is Bea's reason for taking part in the wilderness study, as Agnes was dying back in the City due to the polluted air. Here in the wilderness, Agnes can finally breathe again, and Bea has peace of mind knowing that she gave up everything to save her ailing daughter. As the years go by and Agnes grows into a burgeoning young woman, she finds herself at odds with Bea, and the relationship between mother and daughter develops and changes in unexpected ways.
I was all-in with The New Wilderness at the start of this book. I was fully captivated by the premise of living off the land, leading a nomadic life, and traveling the wilderness as roaming hunter-gatherers. I found these parts of the book to be fascinating, and loved the tension that Cook built any time the group came in contact with the Rangers ... I couldn't wait to find out the true reason behind their wilderness study.
LIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD ... I was prepared to give this novel 5 stars, but alas for all of the foreboding that it builds throughout its first half, it eventually ends up going nowhere. There is no big twist at the end, no secret government experiment being conducted on our travelers ... rather, the group benefitted from taking in all that the wilderness had to offer, and the Rangers learned much from their experiences.
The New Wilderness's lack of drive and purpose turned what could have been a stellar novel into somewhat of a let-down. I am still rating this book 4 stars because I did enjoy it, but there was no pay-off or explanation at the end, which I found to be so disappointing after expecting so much from this otherwise thought-provoking read.
Availability: Book; eBook in cloudLibrary
Rating: **** Stars (I really liked it) Reviewer: Brooke, Public Relations Librarian
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GENRE: Dystopian Fiction; Literary Fiction; Multiple Perspectives
TONE: Darkly Humorous; Suspenseful; Thought-Provoking
WRITING STYLE: Compelling; Descriptive
SUBJECT: Climate Change; Experiments; Hunting & Gathering Societies; Mothers & Daughters; Sick Persons; Survival; Voyages & Travel; Wilderness Areas
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