The New Wilderness
Author: Diane Cook
Publisher: Oneworld Publications/Harper
Publication Date: 30 July 2020
Genre: Dystopian Fiction
Cost: Rs. 294.50 (Kindle edition)
Pages: 402 (Kindle edition)
Plot: The debut novel by Diane Cook paints a picture of a smoggy, utterly polluted world. Bea must save her five-year-old daughter Agnes who is a poor victim of this smoke engulfed earth and cannot survive if not taken away afar. Bea has this only way left where she can join the volunteers to the Wilderness State, a remote state preserved for the wildlife that offers clean air.
The truth is, they are a part of an experiment that wants to see whether the man and the wild can co-exist. While the new nomadic life turns Agnes into a wild beast as she grows, making her a part of the community, Bea can never discard her urbane, civilized self. It is a hard battle between conserving the human identity and a mother’s gradual existential isolation from her daughter. Will motherhood and nature ever form a synergy?
Review: A dark tale of relationships weaved against a dystopian setting that is immensely relatable in the light of current environmental aspects. A mother’s final attempt to see her daughter alive amidst inhospitable situations and not so well-meaning peers. This terrain, the Wilderness State that becomes the last resort of a vulnerable mother, is dangerous! But is it more dangerous than their toxic gases and minds, betrayals in the over-populated big cities?! The questions that the novel raises are as horrifying as the reality, and Cook serves the horror both on a humane and monstrous level, as she projects the challenges of leading a primitive life quite well.
‘The New Wilderness’ leaves space for speculation but no space for complacence. Whenever one feels settled into the plot, Cook immaculately changes the social and emotional dynamics.
The novel moves at a brisk pace with its occasional descriptions of nature that seem to be tedious after a certain point. But perhaps, it was important because, for the inhabitants in that alternative world, that’s all the green, all the mountains, all the water, and all the sun rays they have left! It gives the readers a sense of responsible belonging that every little bit of this mother earth is priceless. Also, the long descriptions make sense to connect the readers, the Wilderness State, and the volunteers in a single thread, offering land reiki for the new hunters.
No matter how apocalyptic in approach, the novel revolves around motherhood. On one hand, Mother Nature’s struggle to survive and save its creatures conquering the hostilities, and Bea’s unparalleled efforts to save her daughter on the other, are beautifully aligned and blended to perfection.
Milestones of the Book:
- ‘The New Wilderness’ has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2020.
About the Author:
Diane Marie Cook’s first book ‘Man vs Nature’ which came out in 2015, is regarded as the epigraph to her recent novel ‘The New Wilderness’. ‘Man vs Nature’ was a finalist for the Guardian First Book Award, the Believer Book Award, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. While significant names like Harper’s, Tin House, Granta have published this American author’s works, her writings have appeared in popular books like ‘Best American Short Stories’ and ‘The O. Henry Prize Stories’.
A former producer for This American Life, a radio program, and the recipient of a 2016 fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, she currently lives in New York with her husband and two children.