Foreword Reviews - - Reviews - RE­BECCA FOS­TER

Mick Kit­son Canon­gate Books (MAY) Hard­cover $20 (240pp) 978-1-78689-187-7

One cold Oc­to­ber, thir­teen-year-old Sal and her younger half-sis­ter, Peppa, es­cape from their al­co­holic mother and sex­u­ally abu­sive step­fa­ther into the wilds of Scot­land, set­ting up camp in Gal­loway For­est Park. As the win­ter ad­vances, they re­place their tarp struc­ture with one of bent saplings and shoot rab­bits and grouse for food. Sal is well armed with sur­vival skills, but the sis­ters won’t be able to hide for­ever.

Sal is a com­pelling nar­ra­tor be­cause of her con­tra­dic­tions: she is si­mul­ta­ne­ously a child and an adult be­fore her time; she is pre­pared to en­gage in prim­i­tive tasks like cre­at­ing a shel­ter, dig­ging a la­trine, and skin­ning a rab­bit, but many of these abil­i­ties were learned from Youtube videos. That blend of old-fash­ioned sur­vival strate­gies and mod­ern tech­nol­ogy makes Sal feel like an up­date of clas­sic chil­dren’s sto­ries, while Peppa’s read­ing of Trea­sure Is­land and Kid­napped pro­vides a spe­cific link to her ad­ven­ture her­itage in Scottish chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture.

Re­gional slang and curse words give the novel an edgy charm—sal refers to Peppa as a “dirty-minded wee bas­tard.” But there’s also a naïve sweet­ness to Sal’s thinking. She plans to bring their mother back to the camp when she gets out of re­hab and—to­gether with In­grid, an el­derly Ger­man woman who also lives in the woods—form an un­con­ven­tional fam­ily. It’s an ap­peal­ing im­age of the fu­ture, but it com­pletely ig­nores the na­ture of ad­dic­tion, the threat of ill­ness, and the far-reach­ing ef­fects of the in­ci­dent that prompted Sal and Peppa to run away.

The call of the sim­ple life in the woods is strong, but tech­nol­ogy makes it im­pos­si­ble to com­pletely dis­ap­pear. Kit­son’s novel has an abun­dance of in­flu­ences and themes—from flash­backs to In­grid’s life in East Ger­many to the belief in a Mother God­dess—that will make it a re­ward­ing read for teens and adults alike.

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