The New Wilderness
In an unspecified future time, humans are forced to live in a cramped area called The City, where the air quality is abysmal and the last shreds of nature are cordoned off. For Bea and her daughter, Agnes, life is intolerable; Agnes is ill, and her only hope for survival is to leave The City completely. Beyond the city limits is the Wilderness, an untouched expanse of nature where everyone except the Rangers are forbidden to go. But Bea’s husband, Glen, secures them spots in a group of twenty people who are given access as part of a study, and Bea finds herself mothering in a landscape that is more brutal than anything she could have imagined. Death comes suddenly; mourning is beside the point, and the Rangers dictate their movements and their fates. The Community, as the group is called, must struggle not only against the environment but against their own worst impulses—and acknowledge that the youngest among them may be the most adept at navigating this strange new world.
This remarkable novel does not provide extensive backstory or explanation for how The City came to be, and in this way, it’s somehow more sinister, as though suggesting that our current path of environmental neglect leads logically and inevitably to such a state. The Wilderness is beautiful but not for the weak; loyalty and love are fluid, and power goes to those who claim it. When pieces of the old world appear—a vending machine, a bathroom—they seem as faraway from normalcy as the moon. The Wilderness is not a refuge. There is, as The New Wilderness portends, no longer any refuge at all.
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