Once it was a family home. Now they are all at sea . . .
When Anna and David receive a phone call late one evening, their lives are upturned. Within minutes, they are travelling to the west coast of Scotland, preparing to care for two young sisters, tragically and suddenly orphaned.
It’s a beautiful place, the heather is in bloom, the birds wheel above the waves, the deer graze peacefully in the distance. But the large granite house is no longer a home for the girls, and Anna knows she can never take the place of their mother. Then David invites his friend to stay, to ‘ease them through’ and Anna finds herself increasingly isolated, with everything she – and the girls – once knew of life discarded and overruled by a man of whom she is deeply suspicious.
Very unlike the books I normally read, The Wilderness is not a thriller or a book in which things ‘happen’. It’s about what is and what was and what can no longer be. And how to move forward. It’s about grief and loss and finding oneself, not just for the children, but also for David and Anna and their friend Brendan.
I must say that I didn’t much like Brendan. His way of handling grief at times seemed inappropriate for such young girls, too hands-on and as they described him – creepy. Also too self-focussed – it should never have been about him. If he were their counsellor for real, his feelings would not have come into it.
But back to the story. Young teenagers, Isabella and Sasha, have tragically lost their parents, Peter and Rachel, in a car accident and are now orphans. Peter’s brother David and his wife Anna were named as the legal guardians of the girls in case of such an event, but neither ever expected it to happen. Anna is resentful – their two sons have grown up and left home and they have found a kind of freedom and independence of sorts. But Anna will cope, here in their lovely home in London. She always copes in her boring, housewifey way.
So it’s a shock when David decides to take a three month sabbatical and moves them up to the Scottish Highlands, to ease the girls into their new life, but staying put in their falling-down home on a remote island. It’s wet and freezing and Anna is constantly unhappy. And she misses her friend Avery and her cat.
Then Brendan arrives, having decided he can ‘fix’ them with his own unconventional version of psychotherapy. They will be born again. But he has an agenda and Anna is deeply suspicious.
It’s a very sad book at times, because nothing can change what has happened. Can there be a future for all of them and will it be a happy one?
Many thanks to @annecater for inviting me to be part of #RandomThingsTours and to NetGalley for an ARC.
About the Author
Sarah Duguid grew up on a farm in North Lincolnshire and now lives in London. Her stunning debut Look At Me was published in 2016. The Wilderness is her second novel.