"Geni's fascination with the borders between human and animal drives this distinctive sophomore novel . . . Geni continues to create works of art with perfect voices that are simultaneously thrillers and meditations on nature. It is an incredible trick." --Kirkus Reviews (starred review) When a Category 5 tornado ravaged Mercy, Oklahoma, no family in the small town lost more than the McClouds. Their home and farm were instantly demolished, and orphaned siblings Darlene, Jane, and Cora made media headlines. This relentless national attention and the tornado's aftermath caused great tension with their brother, Tucker, who soon abandoned his sisters and disappeared. On the three-year anniversary of the tornado, a cosmetics factory outside of Mercy is bombed, and the lab animals trapped within are released. Tucker reappears, injured from the blast, and seeks the help of nine-year-old Cora. Caught up in the thrall of her charismatic brother, whom she has desperately missed, Cora agrees to accompany Tucker on a cross-country mission to make war on human civilization. Cora becomes her brother's unwitting accomplice, taking on a new identity while engaging in acts of escalating violence. Darlene works with Mercy police to find her siblings, leading to an unexpected showdown at a zoo in Southern California.The Wildlands is another remarkable literary thriller from critically acclaimed writer Abby Geni, one that examines what happens when one family becomes trapped in the tenuous space between the human and animal worlds.
The Wildlands addresses some relevant issues: the media’s responsibility in reporting tragedy, filial duty, and responsible vs extreme activism. This story kept me on my toes, wondering what Tucker would do next and how 9-year-old Cora would cope with her predicament of remaining devoted to her brother while his actions and behavior become increasingly dangerous.
Many thanks to Edelweiss and Counterpoint Press for the advance copy in exchange for my review.
Quotes: "Boys seemed simpler than girls, less intricately calibrated. The boys I knew seemed to have only one feeling at a time, a single strong emotion vibrating like the note of a tuning fork."
"I used to think of adulthood as a hallway lined with doors, each marked by a different milestone: Sex, Money, Marriage, Parenthood, Death. As people entered puberty, they moved along the corridor, opening the rooms one by one, gaining access at last to the mysteries within. To children, however, the doors were locked. I knew the terms of adulthood - the words written outside - and that was all. Most grownups were willing to offer only a hint, a glance through the keyhole."