Review: Road Out of Winter by Alison Stine

I’m happy to be participating in a blog tour for Alison Stine’s fascinating dystopian cli-fi novel, Road Out of Winter, today! I really enjoyed this book, and I’m excited to share my thoughts.

What it’s about:

From the publisher’s book summary:

Surrounded by poverty and paranoia her entire life, Wil has been left behind in her small Appalachian town by her mother and her best friend. Not only is she tending her stepfather’s illegal marijuana farm alone, but she’s left to watch the world fall further into chaos in the face of a climate crisis brought on by another year of unending winter. So opens Alison Stine’s moving and lyrical cli-fi novel, ROAD OUT OF WINTER (MIRA Trade; September 1, 2020; $17.99).

About the author:

ALISON STINE lives in the rural Appalachian foothills. A recipient of an Individual Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), she was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. She has written for The Atlantic, The Nation, The Guardian, and many others. She is a contributing editor with the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.

Alison Stine’s Social Links:

Author Website

Twitter: @AlisonStine

Instagram: @AliStineWrites

Goodreads

My thoughts about the book:

I found this book to be unputdownable. It’s very dark, gritty, and sad—perhaps even a little too realistic, which makes it even scarier. People have been adapting to the obviously accelerating climate changes around them, but as it becomes evident that spring isn’t going to come, panic sets in and the whole fabric of society begins to crumble as supply chains fail.

Alison Stine’s writing is excellent. She manages to give the reader a very real sense of dread from the beginning of the story, and the tone of the book is relentlessly matter-of-fact. The book is well-paced and wonderfully descriptive, even in its cold starkness and foreshadowing:

“I didn’t know the song they performed at what would be the last graduation ceremony, the final graduating class; the last time the platform groaned under the risers; the last time the wind tried but could not unsettle the principal’s hair, buzzed short on his flat head.”

Wil is a fantastic character: always a loner, with a sad personal history and not much joy in her life, she’s got a lovely heart and cares for her best friend, her mom, and then literal strangers she meets as the chaos sets in. She’s able to create her own family, and that part of the story is heartbreaking and beautiful.

I highly recommend this page-turner dystopian to any fan of the genre. It’s brutal and intense, but it has moments of hope and joy. A truly good read.

Road Out of Winter will be available on September 1, 2020 from Mira Books.

Buy Links: 

Harlequin 

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Books-A-Million

Powell’s

Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher, and Alison Stine for an ARC in exchange for my honest review, and thank you to Lia Ferrone at Harlequin Trade Publishing for the opportunity to participate in the blog tour.

Review: Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawai Strong Washburn

It seems wrong to say that I ‘enjoyed’ such an extremely depressing book, but here we are.

What it’s about

From the Goodreads description:

In 1995 Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, on a rare family vacation, seven-year-old Nainoa Flores falls overboard a cruise ship into the Pacific Ocean. When a shiver of sharks appears in the water, everyone fears for the worst. But instead, Noa is gingerly delivered to his mother in the jaws of a shark, marking his story as the stuff of legends.

Nainoa’s family, struggling amidst the collapse of the sugarcane industry, hails his rescue as a sign of favor from ancient Hawaiian gods–a belief that appears validated after he exhibits puzzling new abilities. But as time passes, this supposed divine favor begins to drive the family apart: Nainoa, working now as a paramedic on the streets of Portland, struggles to fathom the full measure of his expanding abilities; further north in Washington, his older brother Dean hurtles into the world of elite college athletics, obsessed with wealth and fame; while in California, risk-obsessed younger sister Kaui navigates an unforgiving academic workload in an attempt to forge her independence from the family’s legacy.

When supernatural events revisit the Flores family in Hawai’i–with tragic consequences–they are all forced to reckon with the bonds of family, the meaning of heritage, and the cost of survival.

My thoughts

As I read the first few chapters, I honestly didn’t know if I was going to stick with this book. The style of writing took a bit to get used to, but somewhere in Nainoa’s first chapter, I was completely hooked.

This book is very well written: lyrical and lush prose, every chapter told from the POV of one of the members of Nainoa’s family. Each character is so well developed, it gets to the point you don’t need the chapter titles to tell you which character is speaking—they are each so distinct and original.

Nainoa, with his eventful conception, his childhood rescue from drowning BY sharks, and his magical abilities, is the center of the story, but at the same time, it’s not really about just him. We spend a lot of time in the heads of his mother Malia, brother Dean, and sister Kauwi.

This is the story of a poor Hawaiian family. It’s the story of imperfect parents trying to do their best for their children, and those children trying to navigate their own way in life. It’s Nainoa trying to understand the purpose of his gift, and his siblings trying to understand where they fit in relation to their special brother. It’s a story rich in descriptions of Hawai’i and legends of the gods of the island. The magical realism is perfectly done, and the touches of magic actually serve to make the rest of the story seem all the more real. Sharks in the Time of Saviors isn’t a happy, feel-good story, but it still left me hopeful and made me smile more than once.

Kawai Strong Washburn has written a very powerful debut. I’m endlessly impressed with his storytelling, especially how he was able to write such a believable female character in Malia. I sometimes struggle with the way male authors write a woman’s POV, but not here. I love this passage from one of Malia’s chapters so much:

It’s an impossible thing to explain, motherhood. What is lost, the blood and muscle and bone that are drawn from your body to feed and breathe a new life into the world. The bulldozer of exhaustion that hits in the first trimester, the nauseous clamps of the mornings, the warping and swelling and splitting open of everything previously taut or delicate, until your body is no longer yours but something you must survive. But those are only the physical. It’s what comes after that takes more. Whatever part of me flowed into you from my body, it turned us tight into two people that shared a soul. I believe that of all my children. Fathers will never understand the way you get deep in us, so deep that there’s a part of me that remains, always, a part of you, no matter where you go. For all the sleepless nights you bludgeoned us with your mewls for milk, for all the car rides you screamed through, the scrapes and cuts and shrieking afternoons at the mall, feverish nights I’d have to hold you to my chest and feel the butterfly flap of your lungs trying to fight off the fever, the shit stains on the sheets Christmas morning and the broken wrist on our anniversary-dinner-reservation night … despite all that, there was still something of unprecedented perfection underneath.

This book is getting mixed reviews, but I highly recommend to those who like strong, lyrical literary fiction with a healthy dose of magical realism. It’s not a hearts-and-flowers happy story, but it’s so worth the journey.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️