Canongate Books, May 8, 2018
241 pages, ebook, paperback, hardcover, audiobook
Women’s lit, General Fiction
I received an eARC from Canongate Books via NetGalley. This is my honest review for which I receive no compensation of any kind.
The cover is outstanding with the wonderful color scheme and the way the title glows out from it. The artwork certainly relates to the story of the rugged mountains and the two girls around the campfire. The story is pretty good, but I found it beyond belief. It just wasn’t real for me that these two young girls would take off into the wilds of Scotland just before winter with nothing but a You-Tube training to prepare one of them and things purchased online with stolen cards. All this after she killed a man. The characters were very well-drawn. You got a really good take on each character and they were real. One more unrealistic note was that Ingrid was a doctor and showed up just when they needed a doctor. What are the odds? The pace was good. I didn’t feel like things were rushed. There was time to take it all in and absorb each event, understand what was happening and why Sal was making these decisions. The tension suffered from the fact that it just wasn’t real. Peppa is really sick from the bite of the pike and Ingrid shows up at the campsite – a Russian doctor who can save her life. Yup, happens every day. It just didn’t work for me.
And here begins the reveal…
We start out with an alcoholic mother, Maw, and a boyfriend, Robert, who drinks, does drugs and is a pedophile. He has Sal giving him a blowjob each night after her mother passes out drunk.
We have Salmarina (Sal), a 13-year-old girl who hasn’t even had her first period yet. Paula, who everyone calls Peppa, a 10-year-old, that is very active and used to her big sister taking care of her. A bit demanding and selfish with it, I think. She doesn’t see all that her sister does for her because her sister doesn’t want her to. And later on, we have Ingrid, a 75-year-old Russian doctor who has dropped out of society to live rough.
Robert threatens to do to Peppa what he’s been doing to Sal when Sal tries not to cooperate with him. So Sal installs a lock on the inside of Peppa’s door and tells her to use it at night. And Sal starts planning and stealing. She steals gift cards and credit cards and merchandise. She watches survival videos on You-Tube. She orders things online. She gets her teacher to show her how to use a compass and maps.
She installs a lock on her mother’s door and waits until her mother passes out one night. Peppa is in her room with the lock on. And Sal is in her room with her brand new hunting knife that she’s bought online. Robert comes in and has his way with her and then passes out on her bed, as usual. With three slashes, she kills him. She cleans the knife, showers, and changes clothes. She closes the door to her room so that Peppa won’t see. Then she gets Peppa and their supplies. She has posh school uniforms for them to wear under their coats so that people won’t recognize where they are from. They take the train north into Scotland and towards the mountains. They change out of the school uniforms and bury them. Then they hike into the mountains and establish a campsite according to things Sal has learned on You-Tube videos. It’s not clear just how much Peppa has watched the videos, but apparently, she has watched some of them. Sal is in charge and makes all the decisions. Though Peppa is a loose cannon and not always willing to be controlled by Sal. While Sal hikes into town, Peppa isn’t even capable of keeping the fire going properly and that’s when Ingrid shows up for the first time. Peppa tells Ingrid all about them. She’s gone by the time Sal finally gets back with their supplies.
I’m not going to do a more reveal with this book. Suffice to say, the girls have quite a few adventures in the wild trying to just survive. Peppa’s close call with the pike bite is a scary one. They live with Ingrid for awhile. They snatch their mother from rehab once they hear she’s doing well. There is a sad and a happy ending, but I’m not going to reveal either of those.
I wanted to really like this book, but I got really tired of the You-Tube references and the unrealistic story. I’ve been camping (and that’s with lots of equipment), it’s a lot of work and you don’t have time to be off larking about. You work all day just to make sure things are ready for the next meal and bedtime and such. These girls were also trying to catch their own food. And there was no emotional fall-out from committing murder. Even if you hated someone, you would have some problems with killing a person. And then killing rabbits…
I will recommend this book with reservations.