|Glen was the one who knew about the study, putting people in the Wilderness State. When things worsened in the City and Agnes’s health cratered, like so many children’s had, Glen was the one who offered his help to the researchers in exchange for three spots—for him, Bea, and Agnes."|
When the City becomes unlivable, people seek permission to live nomadic lives in the wilderness. It's a hard life, but return to the City is unthinkable. A coming-of-age adventure for a girl who struggles with her mother, budding love, and survival.
This novel is set in an indefinite future, when the environment has become toxic from some unspecified calamity — pollution? disease? climate change? People spend most of their time indoors. Life expectancy is short. Childhood mortality is high. Glen, his wife Bea, and her young daughter are desperate. Authorities (of some kind) offer an opportunity to join a study (of some kind) that involves leaving the city and moving to the Wilderness State where a group of 20 are to live a nomadic life.
The novel follows them for many years. Authorities (called rangers) force them to stay on the move, never camping in one location for more than a few days, no longer than needed to hunt and replenish their food supplies. They have to live a leave-no-trace lifestyle or they face various penalties, the worst being a threat to be returned to the city.
In the Wilderness setting, we see how Glen, Bea, and especially Agnes, survive and get along with each other and the others. Agnes grows up to be an excellent tracker and sees herself as a leader of the group. Glen and Bea come under increasing stresses that threaten to break up the family. Agnes eventually faces the ultimate question: is her mother's fierce love a sign that she really loves her or is it something else? Can she be trusted? Can her judgment be trusted? As much as this is a survival story in the wilderness, it's also a coming-of-age tale in the most stressful of conditions.
"The New Wilderness" is a straightforward tale told in straightforward language. There are no major twists and turns. The reader's natural curiosity to learn the ultimate fate of the community, its members, and especially Agnes is what propels the story onward. That fate turns out to be logical, maybe even inevitable, and so, for me, satisfying.
"The New Wilderness" is available in Kindle format from the Richardson Public Library.