The New Wilderness by Diane Cook: Book Review
The New Wilderness by Diane Cook is a dystopian suspense novel about a mother and daughter trying to survive in the wild. It is the story of Bea, the mother of Agnes, who has opted for staying like a nomadic tribal or nomadic cavemen/women dweller in the wilderness. Bea is doing this because her daughter is dying of an ailment in the city. I bought this book from Amazon the moment The New Wilderness was longlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize. I usually buy the hardback or paperback edition of every longlisted book. However, due to the pandemic, I had to make do with a Kindle copy.
I have been having a hectic schedule since the school year has started. That is why it took me this long to get to reading The New Wilderness. Amid my reading, it was declared that Diane Cook’s The New Wilderness had made it to the shortlist.
I was thrilled! The New Wilderness is a masterpiece and is the best novel I have read this year, 2020. The story is well crafted, has an edgy topic, and the narration is superb. I was attracted to reading the book because of its startling relevance to our present times, not forgetting the pandemic with which we seem to be stuck! I realized that throughout the book Diane Cook had predicted our current situation like a prophet. With the smoke from wildfires in the US state of California turning the sky of San Francisco area orange, it marks just one more of many coincidental themes and images that run through this epic saga of Bea and Agnes. The New Wilderness has also predicted how children and adults fall fatally sick because of an unnamed disease. Its description is chillingly familiar to the COVID-19 pandemic, in the sense that both are respiratory diseases.
While reading The New Wilderness, a chill kept running down my spine in that unnerving way when you realize that the ‘fiction’ that you are reading is more ‘real’ than you think. With the many dust storms, tornadoes, flooding, hurricanes, and forest wildfires plaguing our planet, I think it is time to examine as thinking individuals what mistakes we as adults have made with our indifference and differences. We have spoilt the lives of many Agnes’ out there. Hopefully, there is still a little more time before everything gets worse. If we don’t want our forest, jungle, woodland, and other vegetation-covered lands to disappear forever or be cordoned off as something endangered, we need to plan.
We should abandon our differences, fake news, communalism, racism, casteism, regionalism, sexism, and everything else. We have got to unite and realize that our survival is at stake. If we continue with our many differences, we will call worse catastrophes upon our world. Let’s start making a change now; it’s still not too late. It’s going to be hard work, but it’s still not the end yet.
The character of Agnes in The New Wilderness took my breath away. She knew her mind and what she wanted as an individual living in the wild. We tend to look down upon our young Millennials, Gen X, and Gen Z children without realizing that they, too, have a greater claim than us on how we should be doing things. Agnes needed to be a leader despite her young age. Now age doesn’t matter; we need to see beyond our old failed ways of looking at people and what they stand for. Like Agnes, we have to realize that we are destroying our many beautiful ecosystems that need to survive on this planet. In the places of forests, woodlands, equatorial jungles, frozen icecaps, et al., we are creating an ‘ecosystem’ of hate, fake news, evil, disdainfulness, and cynicism. Diane Cook’s book is a warning about a reality playing a hide and seek game with us. We either see mother nature striking back at us in the various calamities that have befallen us, or we don’t. Don’t be fooled. Please pick up Diane Cook’s book right now and read it and get it into your head that there is more to this world than fake news, polarization, decadent religious practices, draconian leaders, and lies. Please, read Bea’s and Agnes’ epic story. Pick up your copy of The New Wilderness today on your Kindle or at your nearest bookstore. I have also reviewed Sophie Ward’s Love and Other Thought Experiments and Colum McCann’s Apeirogon. You can check out my book reviews of these longlisted 2020 Booker Prize books on my blog.
I love many things about Agnes, but I liked that she thought differently from everyone else around her – from the self-conceited Carl, the victim Glen, the crybaby Val, the disoriented Debra, the emotional Jake, and even from her wayward mother, Bea. Another characteristic which I liked about Agnes was her leadership qualities despite being so young. It is time we realized that a Ph.D., an MBA, a post-doctoral degree, a billionaire or millionaire godfather or godmother, a glowing CV, good looks, fame, etc., does not make a true leader. A real leader can be a Malala Yousafzai or a Greta Thunberg. Ultimately, what is the use of the best of everything if it brings out the worst in everything and anything. We should start thinking differently about nature, conservation, the wild, the possibility of living in the wild, and the life of tribals. We should give the young Agnes’ a chance to try something new when we adults have failed. We can start by first reading Diane Cook’s novel. I gave Diane Cook’s book five stars on Goodreads, and in my opinion, she deserves to win this year’s 2020 Booker Prize award. I wish her all the very best!
This book will change your perception of the wild and the efforts we should be making in conservation. Guys, growing cactus in a little pot is fine, but you need to preserve the remaining vegetation out there, or worse days endure. That small cactus on your office table will not equal the hundreds of felled trees and wildernesses destroyed, which has taken centuries to grow, mature, and nurture. If you want to know more about conservation, especially about the preservation of trees, plants, scrubs, et al., then you can check out my review of Peter Wohlleben’s excellent non-fiction book The Hidden Life of Trees. I have also included an essay on Peter Wohlleben’s book in my memoir Scenes of a Reclusive Writer & Reader of Mumbai. You can buy it from the products page on my blog.
I know you will thoroughly enjoy and approve of Diane Cook’s book, The New Wilderness. I appreciate the effort she has put into studying the lifestyles of tribals, cave dwellers, and the early Paleolithic lifestyles to make this book come alive. I loved the relationship shared between Agnes and Glen, her foster father; it brought a choke to my throat. I’m looking forward to a sequel.
I enjoyed reviewing Diane Cook’s book, The New Wilderness. I believe in this book and what it tries to convey to us, its readers. Amazing work! I now hope to read more of Diane Cook’s work soon, especially Man V. Nature. I will be reviewing and analyzing the other 2020 Booker Prize books soon. This year’s list is stunning and is making my bookish life lively. I will be posting more thoughts on the 2020 Booker Prize books, so keep watching this site for such material.
If you are interested in book reviews, book analysis, short story analysis, poems, essays, essay analysis, and other bookish content, you can check out my blog insaneowl.com. If you are interested in buying my books, you can check out the products page on this site. There is a lot of excellent stuff to buy. Happy reading to you always!
Copyright © 2020 Fiza Pathan
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