Monday, June 1, 2015

Book Review: "Our Endless Numbered Days" by Claire Fuller

"Our Endless Numbered Days" by Claire Fuller
First published in 2015
382 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5
Image from Goodreads

The Short Of It:
"Our Endless Numbered Days" is an absorbing book about a girl who spends almost a decade believing she and her father are the last people on earth. Interesting premise, good little read.

The Long Of It:
You're a little kid and your dad -- your hero -- takes you out on a wilderness adventure. After a long journey you make camp in an isolated little valley between a river and mountains. A bad storm comes and the next day your dad goes to scout out the situation.  He comes back sobbing and gasping and tells you the world is ruined and that you're the only two humans left on earth. Because he's your dad and you're 8 years old, you believe him.

That's how Peggy Hillcoat comes to spend 9 years living in a shack in the forest with her father, never setting eyes on another soul, living off squirrels and rabbits, and wearing shoes made of rotten animal skins.

The pretty cover of this novel is reminiscent of a children's picture book -- and in a way that's fitting because even at 17 Peggy is as naive and innocent as a young child -- but I think it does the book a bit of a disservice. This story is not light or whimsical. It's engrossing and fascinating in an almost voyeuristic way, it's dark, and it's unsettling.

Your curiosity about this unusual girl will be aroused immediately as 17-year-old Peggy starts to tell us her almost unbelievable tale. Why did Peggy's survivalist father decide to trek out to the middle of nowhere, set up camp and concoct such a massive lie? Why didn't Peggy ever figure out the truth? How did she finally make her way back to London? What happened to her father? What about her mother, whom Peggy believed dead along with everyone else? So many questions -- and you'll be happy to know they're (almost) all answered eventually.

Fuller is a talented writer and an imaginative storyteller. I found the book to be a bit predictable, but then it wasn't meant to be a mystery but a deeper portrait of love, lies, little heartbreaks, memory, bravery and the will to live. "Our Endless Numbered Days"   -- a perfect title, by the way -- is a quick read and is unlike anything else you'll come across this year.

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