Hello everybody – hope you are all keeping safe. I am lucky enough to be exclusively working from home and as I do so, I am trying to create a mental health routine of comfort reading, writing, going for (safe) walks and TV watching. Since I have read over 30 books so far this year, I will start posting about my recommended Social Distancing Reads more frequently as a way to catch up and keep up.
Ashley knows a lot of things: she knows that the world is not tame, that people are fallible, that to survive in the forest near her home requires a lot of prep, protection and most of all, attention. Knowing these things don’t prepare her for what happens when she makes a mistake: she gets drunk one night at a camping party with her friends and when she wakes up during the night to pee, she catches her boyfriend making out with another girl – in a drunken stupor, Ashley runs away into the night, into the forest, without her shoes, with anything but her tears and her rage. A fall into a ravine results on a crash and a loss of consciousness for a few previous hours. When she wakes up the next day Ashley realizes she has left no trail to follow back and that she has a severely hurt foot with a lot more bone and tendon on open air DISPLAY than there should be.
Unable to walk on two feet for much long, unable to find the trail back to camp, Ashley finds herself deep in the woods, trying to survive for long enough to fight the looming infection. She has enough knowledge and survival skills to keep going – but for how long before she needs to make a decision about her foot, a decision that could seriously compromise her future as a track athlete on a college scholarship, the only way she has to get out of poverty.
This book was SO tense. SO TENSE. When Ashley inevitably has to deal with her foot, on her own, I could barely continue reading. What’s interesting to me though, is how the story is about survival in many different ways. There is the immediate story around Ashley’s plight in the forest but also a survival story in general: Ashley has so little choice in life in terms of a future to lift her and her father out of poverty, that she has to keep going for as long as possible with a very dangerous and life-threatening wound before deciding to chop off her foot, knowing that doing so will mean so much more to her future. Beyond that, the novel also explores elements of emotional survival, of Ashley’s relationships with her father, her boyfriend (reexamined, of course) and above all, with her mentor, a young man who once walked into the forest and never came back. Ashley is tough as nails and an inspiring, sympathetic protagonist I loved to follow all the way through to the happy ending.
A recommended read: tense enough to be thrilling and rewarding enough not to be a downer.