Chosen by Meg Narramore
After discovering ‘cli-fi’ during my university years, I haven’t been able to get enough of it. There is something a little bitter sweet about a book that simultaneously tackles the overriding problem of our times (yay!), whilst often doing so in a way that attacks our very foundational understanding of the world that we may one day inhabit.
I absolutely fell in love with The New Wilderness by Diane Cook, as it so deftly weaves environmental concern with familial bonds, and looks to answer the question of how far we would go for our children. The book paints a stark and terrifying dystopia, but within it exists an extended family of settlers, who have formed the ‘Community’ in the last surviving ‘Wilderness State’. They deal with all of the issues one might expect in a post-civilisation society, such as death, disease and famine, but despite being bleak, this novel is not bare, but is instead brimming with descriptions of a world with only the remnants of the one we currently exist in. There are stunning images of landscape and wilderness, set against a dystopian community trying to survive.
Diane Cook has crafted an incredible, contemporary story and creates a world not much alike any other I have read of. Unlike many books of this style, the author does not so much criticise humanity but instead demonstrates both the power and fragility of human bonds in times of crises. The novel is written from both mother and daughter, and by doing so shows both love and disparity between a mother who remembers the world as it was, and a daughter who recognises the world as it is.
I also loved that Cook shines a light on humanity’s immeasurable ability to numb, as we watch a community witness some acts of immense trauma and remain so distanced from the pain of those events. Humans are adaptable creatures – we have all heard stories of how quickly even the softest individual will turn to violence in times of self- preservation. This is not glossed over in The New Wilderness but instead holds up a mirror and asks us – how would we really act in this same situation. Diane Cook deftly places the reader inside the minds of those who inhabit her pages, with a subtly rarely seen.
This book is both beautiful, and also a stark reminder to reconsider what we value in our short times on this earth, and to be conscious of what we leave behind.