Book Review – The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan

Title: The Sunlight PilgrimsSummer Book Review Logo
Author: Jenni Fagan
ISBN: 9780553418873
No. of Pages: 288
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Origins: Hogarth
Release Date: 19 July 2016

Synopsis:

“It’s November of 2020, and the world is freezing over. Each day colder than the last. There’s snow in Israel, the Thames is overflowing, and an iceberg separated from the Fjords in Norway is expected to drift just off the coast of Scotland. As ice water melts into the Atlantic, frenzied London residents evacuate by the thousands for warmer temperatures down south. But not Dylan. Grieving and ready to build life anew, he heads north to bury his mother’s and grandmother’s ashes on the Scottish islands where they once lived.

Hundreds of miles away, twelve-year-old Estella and her survivalist mother, Constance, scrape by in the snowy, mountainous Highlands, preparing for a record-breaking winter. Living out of a caravan, they spend their days digging through landfills, searching for anything with restorative and trading value. When Dylan arrives in their caravan park in the middle of the night, life changes course for Estella and Constance. Though the weather worsens, his presence brings a new light to daily life, and when the ultimate disaster finally strikes, they’ll all be ready.

Written in incandescent, dazzling prose, The Sunlight Pilgrims is a visionary story of courage and resilience in the midst of nature’s most violent hour; by turns an homage to the portentous beauty of our natural world, and to just how strong we can be, if the will and the hope is there, to survive its worst.”

My Thoughts: In a novel in which there is not much in the way of action or adventure, the success of the story hinges on an author’s ability to put readers into the minds and hearts of her characters. Literary elements like setting, style and tone also become important in character-driven novels. Thankfully, Ms. Fagan has a wonderful way with words and is more than capable of creating an intellectual and compelling story. She proved herself in her debut novel and does so again in The Sunlight Pilgrims.

The timing of the release of The Sunlight Pilgrims is quite intriguing. On the one hand, it is difficult to imagine a world turning into a frozen wasteland at the same time we are experiencing record temperatures and massive heat waves across the globe. On the other hand, what better way to cool down than with a book that takes place in unimaginably frigid temperatures. Along the same lines, given the fact that the freezing temperatures in the novel are a direct result of global warming and the melting of polar ice, the timing of the novel’s publication makes sense. For, every day our global temperatures are hotter than normal and every minute more polar ice melts and impacts the oceans’ currents, it brings us closer to this fictional scenario.

Speaking of that, the fictional world of Ms. Fagan’s is simultaneously brutal and gorgeous. Snow and cold temperatures always bring a sparkling clarity to the atmosphere, something Ms. Fagan is able to capture in her descriptions of the Scottish highlands. She brings to the reader the same sense of wonder and awe that fills a child at the first snowfall of the year. At the same time, there is the constant threat of death by hypothermia that forces you to respect Mother Nature. It brings an added tension to the novel as the characters fight for their very survival.

While The Sunlight Pilgrims is undoubtedly a warning about the damage we are doing to our environment, the story is at heart one about relationships. Ms. Fagan, through her characters, explores every type of relationship with delicacy and without criticism. Parent-to-child, child-to-parent, friends, lovers, neighbors, relationships to self, to the thing we call identity and to places we call home – they all drive these characters and the story as they prepare for the worst. The emotional connections among them, as well as the characters themselves are exquisitely written.

The Sunlight Pilgrims is a very quiet novel. The world, and subsequently Estella, Constance, and Dylan, are preparing for the brutal winter and doing everything to make sure they survive. Yet, they are also going about their lives. Bonfire Night still occurs. There are get-togethers and work and chores and the general mundacity of living. There is grief and love, laughter and tears. There is life, and there is death. The pending disaster simply adds a layer of urgency to their lives and an undercurrent of tension to the story. It is an extremely well-written novel as well, bringing a vibrancy to the harsh landscape and a sense of hope to each of the characters. It is a novel that may not be garnering a lot of attention right now but will impress those readers who find it with its bleak and beautiful story.

 

The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan

BOTTOM LINE: Bleak but beautiful.

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Book Review – Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters

Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters

Title: Underground Airlines Author: Ben H. Winters ISBN: 9780316261241 No. of Pages: 336 Genre: Thriller; Alternate History Origins: Mulholland Books Release Date: 5 July 2016 Synopsis: “A gifted young black man calling himself Victor has struck a bargain with federal law enforcement, working as a bounty hunter for the US Marshall Service. He’s got plenty…

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Book Review – In Twenty Years by Allison Winn Scotch

In Twenty Years by Allison Winn Scotch

Title: In Twenty Years Author: Allison Winn Scotch ISBN: 9781503935242 No. of Pages: 332 Genre: Women’s Fiction Origins: BEA Release Date: 1 July 2016 Synopsis: “Twenty years ago, six Penn students shared a house, naively certain that their friendships would endure—until the death of their ringleader and dear friend Bea splintered the group for good….

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? – 25 July 2016

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Hosted by Kathryn from Book Date, this is a weekly event to share what we’ve read in the past week and what we hope to read, plus whatever else comes to mind. To learn more about each book, just click on the book cover! FINISHED SINCE THE LAST UPDATE: CURRENT READ: CURRENT LISTEN: UP NEXT: More books. So,…

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Sunday Reflections – 24 July 2016 – Summer Nights

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Happy Sunday! I hope everyone is staying cool and comfortable today. It has been absolutely miserable around here lately – hot and sticky. In other words, it is typical midwestern summer weather. I think it has been a shock to the system because we have had such a relatively cool summer compared to other parts…

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What’s For Dinner – Week Starting 16 July 2016

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In an effort to be a whole lot more organized this year, and because everyone is always posting what delicious food they make, here is what I have been serving my family for the past week. I also envision this being a detailed account of how I fail miserably at meal planning when life gets…

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Audiobook Review – Big Vamp on Campus by Molly Harper

Title: Big Vamp on Campus Author: Molly Harper Narrator: Amanda Ronconi ASIN: B01GK496Z4 Audiobook Length: 2 hours, 36 minutes Genre: Paranormal Romance Origins: Mine. All mine. Release Date: 6 June 2016 Synopsis: “In Molly Harper’s newest paranormal romantic comedy set in her beloved Half Moon Hollow, a vampire princess must learn how to navigate life…

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Fabulous Friday – 22 July 2016

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We should always find ways to celebrate the little things in life. What better day to celebrate these little things than the best day of the week? So, here are the things that make this a Fabulous Friday for me this week. LAZY SUMMER EVENINGS – I could get use to not having evening activities. It is like a…

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Book Review: The Summer That Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel

The Summer That Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel

Title: The Summer That Melted Everything Author: Tiffancy McDaniel ISBN: 9781250078063 No. of Pages: 320 Genre: Literary Fiction Origins: St. Martin’s Press Release Date: 26 July 2016 Synopsis: “Fielding Bliss has never forgotten the summer of 1984: the year a heat wave scorched Breathed, Ohio. The year he became friends with the devil. Sal seems…

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Book Review: Mata Hari’s Last Dance by Michelle Moran

Mata Hari's Last Dance by Michelle Moran

Title: Mata Hari’s Last Dance Author: Michelle Moran ISBN: 9781476716381 No. of Pages: 288 Genre: Historical Fiction Origins: Touchstone Release Date: 19 July 2016 Synopsis: “Paris, 1917. The notorious dancer Mata Hari sits in a cold cell awaiting freedom…or death. Alone and despondent, Mata Hari is as confused as the rest of the world about…

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