Fierce Kingdom hits hard

Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

BOTTOM LINE: A tough, suspenseful read

Genre: Suspense & Thriller
Publication Date: 25 July 2017
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss

Synopsis from the Publisher:

“An electrifying novel about the primal and unyielding bond between a mother and her son, and the lengths she’ll go to protect him.

The zoo is nearly empty as Joan and her four-year-old son soak up the last few moments of playtime. They are happy, and the day has been close to perfect. But what Joan sees as she hustles her son toward the exit gate minutes before closing time sends her sprinting back into the zoo, her child in her arms. And for the next three hours—the entire scope of the novel—she keeps on running.

Joan’s intimate knowledge of her son and of the zoo itself—the hidden pathways and under-renovation exhibits, the best spots on the carousel and overstocked snack machines—is all that keeps them a step ahead of danger.

A masterful thrill ride and an exploration of motherhood itself—from its tender moments of grace to its savage power—Fierce Kingdom asks where the boundary is between our animal instinct to survive and our human duty to protect one another. For whom should a mother risk her life?”

My Thoughts: I finished Fierce Kingdom on the same day as the Las Vegas shooting. To read a book about a mass shooting in a zoo on the same day as those horrifying headlines/videos/images hit the news made the story cross from fiction to real life. The questions Joan raises about saving her son versus saving others are ones we should never have to ask ourselves but the likelihood of having to do so increase with every shooting. What a horrible way to live.

Like all tragedies, the story starts out almost idyllic. The descriptions of the park where Joan and Lincoln play are beautiful, establishing a lovely connection between mother and son, and providing a calm before the storm. This scene is key for building Lincoln and Joan’s relationship and establishing their personalities. It also provides a fantastic counterpoint to the alone time mother and son will later get.

For the remainder of the novel, tension ratchets as Joan struggles to remain hidden while seeing to the needs of her child. As in any situation where facts are not known, it is fear that drives Joan and determines her action or inaction, fear of the unknown assailants, their whereabouts, and their reasons for the shootings. As she flits from fear to worry to anger and back again, we see her struggle with the situation into which she is forced and watch how her emotions at any given second impact her decision-making. It makes for a fascinating cat-and-mouse scenario, especially because we really only see it from the mouse’s point of view.

Where Fierce Kingdom really impresses is in its morality debates between surviving and saving lives. More than once, Joan must make the toughest of decisions if she hopes to keep her son safe. But as time passes, and it becomes more of a struggle to keep Lincoln quiet, Joan also must confront the choice between her own safety and that of her child. All parents declare they would die for their children, but when faced with that actual life-or-death scenario, would we really do so? For a parent, it does not get much scarier than that, and Ms. Phillips captures the emotional turmoil Joan undergoes with aplomb.

Fierce Kingdom is probably not the novel to read right now. The Vegas shootings are too near to our hearts, involving too many people, and affecting families and friends around the globe. However, it is an important read. Through Joan, readers can wrestle with the same decisions Joan faces. It is almost a fire drill for parents caught in a mass shooting. Schools and places of employment perform lockdown drills regularly to practice for such scenarios. Ms. Phillips provides parents with a similar preparatory exercise in Fierce Kingdom.

11 Responses to Fierce Kingdom hits hard
  1. SuziQoregon
    October 12, 2017 | 9:47 AM

    Yeah . . . I want to read this . . . but I need to wait a while.

    • Michelle
      October 12, 2017 | 4:13 PM

      I don’t blame you. It was a difficult finish.

  2. Heather @ Book Addiction
    October 13, 2017 | 6:21 AM

    I’m with Suzi … sounds good, just not right now.

    • Michelle
      October 13, 2017 | 11:25 AM

      I completely understand.

  3. Ti
    October 13, 2017 | 1:57 PM

    I had no idea what this book was about until about two days ago when I saw it posted somewhere but I quickly requested it from the library.

    I just attended a vigil for the victims. I attended for the one father that passed away, given he is the father of my life group friend and also the father of my daughter’s teammate. I also knew of 7 other residents who were shot but they did this thing where everyone who was there, lit a candle and I can’t tell you how many candles were lit!! There must have been at least 100 people from our city in attendance that night. Unreal!

    • Michelle
      October 16, 2017 | 1:02 PM

      It IS a good book; it’s just a bit intense as it forces you to at least contemplate the answers to some tough, tough questions.

      Wow. No wonder your community had a vigil for those who attended. I hate, hate, hate how it has moved out of the news feed already. As much as I adore social media and the Internet, I do think it has ruined our ability to pay attention and do something about issues. No wonder nothing gets done. Just wait long enough (two days) and people will forget about it.

    • Michelle
      October 20, 2017 | 11:49 AM

      That is just so unreal you had so many people from your town in attendance at a concert that is several hours away. The tragedy still hurts my heart, especially now that the news seems to have forgotten all about it. If the shooter had been a POC, however, I’m sure it would still be headline news.

  4. susan
    October 13, 2017 | 4:59 PM

    It sounds like a heart-pounding novel. I had heard it was good, but as you say maybe it’s a bit too close right now to the Vegas nightmare. I still am decompressing. thanks for the word on it.

    • Michelle
      October 20, 2017 | 11:50 AM

      Yes. Take all the time you need before reading it. I think everyone should because the questions it asks are important ones for self-evaluation, but in light of what just happened in Vegas, it is going to require some space first.

  5. Lisa
    October 15, 2017 | 8:29 PM

    I cannot wait to get my hands on this one!

    • Michelle
      October 20, 2017 | 11:51 AM

      I hope you enjoy it!

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