I battled with this one, guys. Let me tell you. I had been in a reading slump for a bit and since this one was only a seven day rental from my library – and due tomorrow – I decided to give this one a go. I know that, despite my issues with this book, that I will be having a bit of a book hangover on this one.
This book tells the harrowing tale of Joan and her four year old son, Lincoln, as they are faced with something no one should ever have to go through. It is getting late at the zoo that day, and Joan and Lincoln are headed towards the exit, when a sight at the entrance of the zoo has her running in the opposite direction. Within the first couple of pages the reader is tasked with living through the realization that there is a mass shooting and, over the following three hours and 274 pages, how strong a mother’s love is for her son, and what it takes to survive.
I am not a mother, and so cannot not particularly speak to the intense maternal drive Joan faces throughout this novel. However, I am a child of a wonderful mother, and so attempted to understand this book and what it was offering, through the eyes of Lincoln. My hands were sweating, and my heart was racing throughout the entirety of this novel; and once I started I couldn’t put it down until I knew what was going to happen at the end. I will say before discussing some of the issues I had with the book that Lincoln may be my new favourite child in a novel. I was a little put off initially with how adult-like he sounded; most children I know don’t speak that way. But man did he grow on me. What a brave little boy.
I’ve seen some reviews where readers were upset that the author did not delve too deeply into the motivations behind why the shooting was occurring in the first place and tended to focus a bit too much on the somewhat tedious ramblings and streams of consciousness from Joan. While I definitely did not feel satisfied at the end as I still found no closure as to what had happened, I did appreciate the author focusing on the relationship between mother and child (since that truly is the beauty of this book), and what would no doubt be what would be going through my head trying to make a life or death decision with an oftentimes worried child who did not truly grasp the importance of staying quiet. I felt Joan’s frustration when Lincoln could not keep quiet, or ignore his hunger, and I felt her desperation and fear. It was visceral.
My biggest gripe with the book is that it felt unfinished. I had so many questions at the end of this book that I feel the author could have at least provided some answers. I would have liked to know what happened to the other people in the narration, was the treasure found within the trashcan okay?, and a least a little hint about the end instead of ending with such ambiguity I almost pitched my book across the room once I read the final line. WHAT. ACTUALLY. HAPPENED?? I always wish for fewer perfect endings in books, as they don’t reflect reality, but not for this one Gin Phillips. Throw me a bone here. I’m getting flashbacks of Titanic arguments.
Also despite the horrific scenes being depicted, I couldn’t help but feel so sad at the detailed scenes regarding some of the animals that had been slaughtered. Ugh.
Overall I gave this book 4/5 starts just for my visceral reaction to the book. I loved the writing, and the rambling, and despite feeling totally pissed at the ending, I can’t help but admit it made the book that much more poignant to me; this will be one book I never will forget.