Anna and David are a long married couple who have two sons in their early twenties. They have recently become empty-nesters and as a result their marriage is in flux, under scrutiny by both parties. When they receive word that David’s brother and his wife in Scotland have perished in an automobile accident, they realize that their lives are about to change. The couple had two girls, aged fifteen and thirteen. Several years ago they agreed to be the girls guardians if anything untoward should happen…
Given the unique circumstances, it is decided that Anna and David should move to Scotland rather than have the girls move to them in London. The girls have only known the isolated and unique life on the remote Scottish island. They have been home schooled by their mother, so know little of what city life might consist of.
Shortly after their move to Scotland, their long-time friend Brendan moves in with them to ‘help’ with the girls.
“Anna has known Brendan long enough to know that he’s unpredictable, a little mad, not to everyone’s taste.”
Anna is deeply reluctant to move to Scotland but does so for her husband, and for the girls. Once there, she encounters primitive conditions. Bone-numbing cold, no cellular signal, iffy heating, and lack of the basic amenities she has become dependent on. The girls are surly and unapproachable. Anna feels unequal to the thankless task of gaining their trust and affection.
I don’t know what I expected after reading the blurb for this book, but whatever it was, it was NOT what I got.
This novel was highly original. Creepy and atmospheric yes, but deeply unsettling and bizarre as well.
The family friend Brendan, who came to stay with them in Scotland was a deeply disturbed man. He caused me as a reader to be as troubled as the two girls were… I expected the narrative to be from Anna’s point of view, but most of the novel was not. The relationship between the girls and Brendan was one of suspicion, with the reader never knowing if it would develop into the highly unsavory. I expected to feel deep empathy for the girls, but I found them to be peculiar and unconventional. So much so that I wondered just what they were capable of…
The ‘wilderness‘ of the title spoke to more than just the isolated setting on a Scottish island. It spoke to the wilderness of relationships that were increasingly un-navigational, perplex, and complicated.
The Brendan character brought an almost primal vibe to the novel. He was eccentric and deeply disturbed. The two girls, in throes of grief, were susceptible to his bizarre ideas and the resulting atmosphere quickly became toxic.
The ending of the novel brought home the idea of transience. How we are all here for such a short time, we are inconsequential. Everything returns to wilderness over time…
All in all, a memorable and disturbing read.This review was written voluntarily and my rating was in no way influenced by the fact that I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Tinder Press via NetGalley in conjunction with Anne Cater and Random Things Tours.
ISBN:9781472229885 — ASIN: B09B5XDV87— 256 pages
Sarah Duguid grew up on a farm in North Lincolnshire and was educated in Derbyshire and at Durham University where she read English Literature. After university, she lived and worked in New York and South Africa before returning to London where she now lives with her partner and their son.
“The Wilderness” is her second novel.
Connect with Sarah Duguid on Twitter.