Top positive review
Thoughtful, lyrical trip through the not so good world to come
4 October 2019
I wasn’t immediately drawn into the world of this book but it grows on you. Kitty Hawke is the last dweller on Wolfe Island, which is disappearing into the sea of Chesapeake Bay. Her family have lived there for centuries. She is an artist, referring to her assemblages as “makings”. We learn that she left her husband and two teenage children behind on the mainland to return to the island several years before. Her work was discovered by an agent; a documentary was made and she has a reputation as something of a crazy old hermit genius. The book is narrated in her voice as she details events and ruminates on the behaviour of herself and others and on life in general. There is much to think about, because she lives in the trying times of the near future. The sea has risen, the winters are warmer, the wild weather is excessive, and many people from the south (Mexicans) are running north, trying to outpace vigilantes and the law. They are aided by people running an Underground Railroad, as in the days of slavery.
Her 17 yo granddaughter Cat shows up unexpectedly, with boyfriend Josh, 17 yo Luis and his 7 yo sister Alejandra. Cat is fierce and to keep Kitty safe from compromising knowledge, none of them will say much about what has happened or why they are there. Kitty agrees to not mention their presence to her daughter Claudie (Cat’s mother). Cat becomes pregnant and when the baby is imminent, Claudie is summoned and the tension of her relationship with Kitty surfaces. Things take a dive on the island and Kitty decides to go north with the youngsters in a bid to get Luis and Alejandra to safety. It is a perilous journey. All along the coast houses are abandoned as invading salt water does its damage. Naturally, the locals aren’t too friendly. Bad things happen, forcing Kitty to question her actions, which seem to us stoically pragmatic. After saying goodbye to the young ones Kitty - now carless - has to walk back, encountering more danger. The quiet, unshocked way Kitty records all this is absolutely believable. Men will be predatory. She makes it back in one piece and has a reunion of sorts with her husband. However, the island is now unliveable. Cat and her baby can’t come back because of the people smuggling, but Kitty does have a rapprochement with Claudie. Interwoven with these family relationships is the story of what happened with Tobe, Kitty’s other child. Grief is never far away, nor courage.
It’s a quiet, ruminative book despite the horrors of what happens and quite lyrical in parts, especially when describing the sea and the weather. Lucy Treloar has absolutely got into Kitty’s mindset and her depiction of a dystopian near future is quite likely to prove utterly correct.