The New Wilderness
In this shattering work of dystopian fiction, love and survival intertwine until neither is recognizable from the other. The New Wilderness, the Booker Prize-longlisted novel by author and former This American Life producer Diane Cook, takes a refreshingly raw spin on an age-old climate disaster story: the earth has all but been destroyed by industrialization. Most of the population live in the polluted City, where the air is so poisonous to children that childbirth is discouraged. But a lucky few have been selected for an experimental foray into the Wilderness State, the last enormous parcel of protected land, where the flora and fauna are wild and real. Bea is an interior designer in the City, where her daughter, Agnes, is dying; she keeps coughing up blood. Desperate, Bea and her husband, Glen, are first in line to take Agnes into the Wilderness State with a group of other Community members, where they hope the clean air will save Agnes's life. In return, they'll survive--and check in regularly at Posts for data collection. But, of course, simply living in the Wilderness State is a brutal, beautiful journey, and it challenges everything Bea and Agnes know about their love for each other.
Cook's writing is both a melodic ode to nature and a devastating eulogy to what has been lost, both in the real world and her fictional one. As Agnes becomes wilder, so does her mother, and their diverging natures soon bring them to a crossroads. This is a gorgeous tale of motherhood and the will to live. --Lauren Puckett, freelance writer