By Julie MacKissok
Whenever I read a book, I am looking for that line. You know the one. The line that tells me everything I didn’t know about the world before reading the book in my hands. In Abby Geni’s The Wildlands, it came late, almost at the end.
“The milestones were less marvelous than the minutiae” (p. 338).
Even without the context of the story this line stands out to me as something profound, something we know as humans, but must be reminded of frequently. This story is about a family that loses everything. And in losing everything, all have to find a new way to live in the world. One of the main characters, Darlene, is forced to parent her younger siblings at the age of 19. She finds the work important, but dull and serious, and cannot see a way out of the day to day minutiae of her life now. She does not begrudge her siblings, but wishes for her old life of freedom. She cannot imagine their lives becoming any worse, but as her now deceased father always said, “And then something else happens.”
Geni is a masterful writer of suspense. She weaves the story from two different points of view. Cora, the 9-year old sister who doesn’t remember her mother, or her father, is written from a first person perspective. Darlene, the oldest sister who becomes the parent to her three younger siblings, is written from a third person perspective. This functions to bring you in so close to the madness that Cora experiences after leaving town with her older brother, Tucker. It’s necessary for the story to be in Cora’s mind. When the POV switches to Darlene, the third person POV serves to keep you at arms length from her thoughts, which is an interesting aspect of her character that changes throughout the novel, to its conclusion. I love it when an author uses craft to illustrate an aspect of the novel to a greater degree. Cora is open and honest and the use of first person demonstrates that. Darlene is closed off and serious.
Geni is also an author who understands the world we live in. She writes about the environment and the way humans interact it in a way that is intriguing but not preachy. Fiction is such an important tool we can use to inform each other and ourselves about the world around us. I highly recommend Abby Geni’s The Wildlands. You won’t be able to put it down.