The Wildlands
From the award winning author of The Lightkeepers comes a page turning new novel that explores the bond between siblings and the animal instincts that threaten to destroy them.When a Category 5 tornado ravaged Mercy, Oklahoma, no family in the small town lost more than the McClouds. Their home and farm were instantly demolished, and orphaned siblings Darlene, Jane, and Cora made media headlines. This relentless national attention and the tornado’s aftermath caused great tension with their brother, Tucker, who soon abandoned his sisters and disappeared.On the three-year anniversary of the tornado, a cosmetics factory outside of Mercy is bombed, and the lab animals trapped within are released. Tucker reappears, injured from the blast, and seeks the help of nine-year-old Cora. Caught up in the thrall of her charismatic brother, whom she has desperately missed, Cora agrees to accompany Tucker on a cross-country mission to make war on human civilization.Cora becomes her brother’s unwitting accomplice, taking on a new identity while engaging in acts of escalating violence. Darlene works with Mercy police to find her siblings, leading to an unexpected showdown at a zoo in Southern California. The Wildlands is another remarkable literary thriller from critically acclaimed writer Abby Geni, one that examines what happens when one family becomes trapped in the tenuous space between the human and animal worlds.

The Wildlands Details

TitleThe Wildlands
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseSep 4th, 2018
PublisherCounterpoint LLC
ISBN-139781619022348
Rating
GenreFiction, Suspense, Literary Fiction, Contemporary, American, American Fiction

The Wildlands Review

  • Rachel León
    January 1, 1970
    Sometimes it's hard to know how many stars to give a book. Not this time--5 solid stars all the way.
  • Acacia Ives
    January 1, 1970
    I was sent this book in exchange for an honest review. She’s done it again! This story of family and relationships is solid, beautiful and raw. I thought there was no way I’d like it as much as The Lightkeepers but I’m so happy I was proved wrong. The natural world is described with such love and attention. Absolutely obsessed!
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  • switterbug (Betsey)
    January 1, 1970
    “The Wildlands. Uncultivated land. Cultivation—that’s what humans do.”Geni’s latest and exciting literary thriller once again examines the liminal space between humans and wildlife, while depicting how compassion can mutate to corruption and danger. In this novel, Geni’s characters are not research biologists and strangers to each other, like in THE LIGHTKEEPERS. In THE WILDLANDS, her characters are four Oklahoma siblings orphaned by a Category 5 tornado, which destroyed their house, massacred t “The Wildlands. Uncultivated land. Cultivation—that’s what humans do.”Geni’s latest and exciting literary thriller once again examines the liminal space between humans and wildlife, while depicting how compassion can mutate to corruption and danger. In this novel, Geni’s characters are not research biologists and strangers to each other, like in THE LIGHTKEEPERS. In THE WILDLANDS, her characters are four Oklahoma siblings orphaned by a Category 5 tornado, which destroyed their house, massacred their beloved horses and cows, and slayed their father. The trauma to the children have both shared and clashing impacts on their grasp of the future. The slaughter of life—both human and animal--has compromised their trust in benevolence, stripping them of faith in ordinary safety. The oldest, nineteen-year-old Darlene, a realist, wants to keep the youngest three together with her, and gives up college plans in order to put food on the table. Tucker, the only brother and second oldest, is more of the dreamer, and finds solace in the wild lands beyond their new and shabby trailer home. The youngest, Cora, age six, worships Tucker, who pays close attention to her and includes her in his forays to the fields and wildlife beyond. When he leaves the family and disappears after an angry dispute with Darlene, Cora is stricken. As in THE LIGHTKEEPERS, we begin to comprehend that our true self is often mirrored or altered by the behavior of the humans and animals that we love, protect, confine, exploit, or liberate. Three years later, Tucker returns with a vengeance and vocation against the injustices to animals by the public. He is on a quest to save the animal kingdom, who he believes are casualties of the human war against them. The bonds of family are tested to terrifying depths, while the pace-perfect, page-turning narrative, in Cora’s now mature voice, also explores the thin but overlapping border between man and beast.“This is the story of the summer I disappeared,” begins Cora, the first line after the prologue. And, as the pages turn, it becomes apparent that her disappearance is both physical and psychological, under a Svengali-esque influence, as her psyche is subsumed by events that tear the family apart and completely turn her identity inside out. I am hesitant to say more, since I don’t want to ruin even the small discoveries meant for the reader’s eyes.Part eco-thriller, part suspense thriller, and part domestic thriller, THE WILDLANDS cuts across genres and keeps you emotionally riveted to the characters and plot. The prose is lyrical and poetic, compelling me to re-read passages and paragraphs just for their force and hypnotic beauty. The description of the tornado alone is harrowing and filled with magnificent terror. There’s no filler in the gust of this novel, not one dull page.
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  • Bruce Katz
    January 1, 1970
    Solid 4.5 and I'm not sure myself why I didn't add that extra 1/2 point. (Well, I do, but...) "Wildlands" is every bit as well-written and engaging as "Lightkeepers," but quite different in subject, tone, and atmosphere. As other reviewers have pointed out, the book begins with catastrophe: a tornado that suddenly touches down in a small Oklahoma town (ironically named "Mercy") and leaves four children -- siblings of different ages -- homeless and orphaned, their dreams shattered, their bonds to Solid 4.5 and I'm not sure myself why I didn't add that extra 1/2 point. (Well, I do, but...) "Wildlands" is every bit as well-written and engaging as "Lightkeepers," but quite different in subject, tone, and atmosphere. As other reviewers have pointed out, the book begins with catastrophe: a tornado that suddenly touches down in a small Oklahoma town (ironically named "Mercy") and leaves four children -- siblings of different ages -- homeless and orphaned, their dreams shattered, their bonds to each other and society suddenly made fragile. From this dark beginning Geni deftly leads the reader on an exploration of the boundaries that define us, the ones we are born into and the ones we create: familial, social, gender, identity, wild/domesticated, race, impulse vs. self-control, even life and death. The title serves several purposes. Technically, as we learn about a third of the way through the book, the word refers to "land that is uncultivated or unfit for cultivation." It is the farmstead settled by Sooners who broke the rules before Oklahoma was admitted into the Union. It also denotes the safe life within the borders of the family farm that will be shattered, leaving the characters to become known locally and nationally as "the saddest family in Mercy." But the word takes on additional meanings as the story progresses. "Wildlands" is cast as "a home for strays and runaways. All the refugees of this war... 'Unfit for cultivation.' That means no people, no civilization. Wild and Tame and Domesticated and Feral -- any living thing without a place of the food chain -- all the outliers found their way there. All the lost and lonely animals went to the Wildlands." It is also a state of being: "neither one thing nor the other, without a place in the world." Over the course of the book, this vision will play out in many ways, both tender and violent. It is an agricultural term, a state of mind, a character trait, a dream, a way of life. It's an idea the reader holds onto as he/she evaluates the decisions the characters make -- and the decisions that are made for them.I do no justice to the thematic complexities of the book or its richness. Those failings are mine. Read the book. It will speak quite eloquently for itself.
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  • Varsha Ravi (between.bookends)
    January 1, 1970
    I’ve previously read and loved Abby Geni’s short story collection, The Last Animal and her debut novel, The Lightkeepers. So I was very excited to get to this and I’m glad to report that it was worth a read. The Wildlands, to me, felt like a slight deviant from her usual style. While the inherent theme of environment and relationship to the natural world remain the focus, her stories, usually more personal, literary and character driven, in this however, was much more plot focussed, in the style I’ve previously read and loved Abby Geni’s short story collection, The Last Animal and her debut novel, The Lightkeepers. So I was very excited to get to this and I’m glad to report that it was worth a read. The Wildlands, to me, felt like a slight deviant from her usual style. While the inherent theme of environment and relationship to the natural world remain the focus, her stories, usually more personal, literary and character driven, in this however, was much more plot focussed, in the style of a page turner, and more simply written. I’m not sure if that was a conscious choice by the author to better fit into the ‘thriller’ genre but to me, that was a slight let-down. In the Wildlands, she also dialled up the human impact to environment, presenting a social cause and making it personal.~The plotline follows the life of 4 siblings, orphaned after a category 5 tornado devastates and destroys their home, taking away the life of their father, having already lost their mother. Darlene the eldest, quickly rises to look after her younger siblings and foregoes her aspirations to attend University, instead taking a job and being the sole breadwinner of the family. A massive fight between the Tucker, the second eldest sibling and Darlene, spirals out of control and Tucker leaves his sisters for good. Most of the story is narrated from the youngest, 9 year old Cora’s perspective. Cora has a very special bond with her brother, and his reappearance under unusual circumstances convinces Cora to tag along with Tucker on a mission that she doesn’t really understand. The consequence of Tucker’s actions, to which Cora becomes an unintentional accomplice, and Darlene’s efforts to retrace Cora’s whereabouts and rescue her, is the central crux of the story.~Geni shines in the description of the natural world and the plot was certainly engaging, but ultimately for me, it didn’t create the magic that The Lightkeepers did. Geni, in this explores the idea of how extreme faith in a cause, however noble, can tip over and become toxic, fanatic, with one losing one’s sense of reason. Tucker’s love for the animals, and the wild, and his hate for human race as the cause of that destruction becomes more and more radical as the novel progresses. The unnatural hold he has over Cora, her thoughts and interpretations was uncomfortable to read. Certain plot points seemed unrealistic to me, and Tucker’s cynical voice at times was a little too heavy-handed bordering on being ‘preachy’ than engaging. The final ‘event’ that Tucker is involved in seemed too far-fetched and reasoning for it didn’t entirely make sense. Another minor qualm was that, Jane, the third sibling could have been removed from the book to no consequence.~The Wildlands is an interesting, ecological thriller that is worth a read. However, if you’ve never tried Abby Geni, I’d certainly recommend The Lightkeepers over this one.~3.5/5
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  • Ericka Seidemann
    January 1, 1970
    Four orphans living in a trailer in Oklahoma are just trying to scrape by after a tornado destroyed their home and family. Tucker, the only brother, runs off, and Darlene, the eldest, takes on the responsibility of caring for her two younger sisters, forgoing her dream of going to college. They manage to eke out a living until one day when Tucker returns. He’s been on a rampage with an extreme animal rights group, and now he wants to take his activism to the next level. He kidnaps his youngest s Four orphans living in a trailer in Oklahoma are just trying to scrape by after a tornado destroyed their home and family. Tucker, the only brother, runs off, and Darlene, the eldest, takes on the responsibility of caring for her two younger sisters, forgoing her dream of going to college. They manage to eke out a living until one day when Tucker returns. He’s been on a rampage with an extreme animal rights group, and now he wants to take his activism to the next level. He kidnaps his youngest sister, Cora, and goes on a spree to save animals and avenge their mistreatment. Darlene is left behind with her sister Jane, torn in different directions to keep her family afloat and rescue Cora. The Wildlands addresses some relevant issues: the media’s responsibility in reporting tragedy, filial duty, and responsible vs extreme activism. This story kept me on my toes, wondering what Tucker would do next and how 9-year-old Cora would cope with her predicament of remaining devoted to her brother while his actions and behavior become increasingly dangerous. Many thanks to Edelweiss and Counterpoint Press for the advance copy in exchange for my review.
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  • Debbi DuBose
    January 1, 1970
    THE WILDLANDS by Abby Geni is an exceptionally well-written, intelligent, and thoroughly thought-provoking story. I enjoyed reading this novel because it's so different from anything I've read before! Ms Geni has penned a gem of a novel in THE WILDLANDS and I loved it!Mercy, Oklahoma is hit by a category 5 tornado and the McClouds lose their Dad, their home, and all the animals on their farmland. The oldest sister is Darlene who's 18 years old and takes on the responsibility of her younger siste THE WILDLANDS by Abby Geni is an exceptionally well-written, intelligent, and thoroughly thought-provoking story. I enjoyed reading this novel because it's so different from anything I've read before! Ms Geni has penned a gem of a novel in THE WILDLANDS and I loved it!Mercy, Oklahoma is hit by a category 5 tornado and the McClouds lose their Dad, their home, and all the animals on their farmland. The oldest sister is Darlene who's 18 years old and takes on the responsibility of her younger sisters Jane and Cora. They become media darlings for a time, known as the "saddest family". The interviews allow Darlene to buy an old one bedroom trailer home. She gives up her dreams of college and goes to work. Tucker, their 17 year old brother, despises the attention of the media and soon leaves home. The tornado seems to have stirred up some unhealthy thoughts in Tucker's mind. He's always loved animals and is into preaching scientific facts about what people have done to them. When the 3 year anniversary of the tornado arrives; someone bombs the cosmetic factory in town freeing all the animals who've been used to test products. Tucker goes to the house when only Cora will be home. Cora, who worships her big brother, helps clean up some wounds that he's incurred. When he asks her to go on an adventure with him to the wildlands; of course, she says, "yes". This novel is about their adventures, and what happens to her two sisters left at home to worry about them. Where are the wildlands? What has Tucker, who's become increasingly violent, set his mind on doing next? You're going to love reading this book. It will be released on September 4th of this year. I was fortunate to have won an ARC of THE WILDLANDS through a Goodreads Giveaway.
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  • Mike
    January 1, 1970
    When her estranged older brother returns home, bleeding and running from the law, nine-year-old Cora agrees to leave with him, but soon discovers the shocking truth of his dangerous crusade. A highly readable and suspenseful page-turner with compelling moral questions.
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  • Dgordon
    January 1, 1970
    Tragedy always seems to follow the McCloud family but when a tornado wipes out their Oklahoma farm taking their widowed father they are left behind to pick-up the pieces. Tucker the only son takes off leaving the oldest sister Darlene behind to take care of her younger sisters Jane and Cora. Tucker is on the run but he returns for Cora where the go on the run from the law and the past.Abby Geni has done it again with this story of responsibility, family, activism and madness. A sad, raw wonderfu Tragedy always seems to follow the McCloud family but when a tornado wipes out their Oklahoma farm taking their widowed father they are left behind to pick-up the pieces. Tucker the only son takes off leaving the oldest sister Darlene behind to take care of her younger sisters Jane and Cora. Tucker is on the run but he returns for Cora where the go on the run from the law and the past.Abby Geni has done it again with this story of responsibility, family, activism and madness. A sad, raw wonderfully rich story that will stay with you for a long time.
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  • Hannah
    January 1, 1970
    My bar was set high for The Wildlands because it's by Abby Geni. I absolutely loved The Lightkeepers; it was one of the first I read this year. I gave it 5/5 stars. Although I enjoyed The Wildlands--and give it a 4/5 stars--it didn't do it for me in the same way.First of all, this book is easy to digest. It's completely opposite of The Female Persuasion--a book I recently read--as far as format. Abby's short chapters made the story fly by for me; it's very choppy.The beginning felt very much lik My bar was set high for The Wildlands because it's by Abby Geni. I absolutely loved The Lightkeepers; it was one of the first I read this year. I gave it 5/5 stars. Although I enjoyed The Wildlands--and give it a 4/5 stars--it didn't do it for me in the same way.First of all, this book is easy to digest. It's completely opposite of The Female Persuasion--a book I recently read--as far as format. Abby's short chapters made the story fly by for me; it's very choppy.The beginning felt very much like Educated to me--maybe because I just read it, or because of the setting. But that definitely clouded my perception for a bit--they both have the small-town vibe with characters that pull at your heartstrings.Like The Lightkeepers, the thriller-ness is subtle-- the violence isn't in your face. And sometimes I found myself asking, Wait, did that just happen?It was certainly entertaining, but I think it went deep in all the wrong places. The details of the actual crimes went on and on at times, but I didn't get to truly know Cora and Tucker--and Darlene's love for Roy.It all did seem like something that could truly happen--perhaps because of the way Abby chose to write in first person for Cora and in third for chapters focusing on other characters. Overall, it was an easy, entertaining read, but I know Abby is capable of more :)
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  • J. Harding
    January 1, 1970
    Highly recommended, I really, really enjoyed my time in the Wildlands, which wasn't that long of a time as I could not put this book down, except to go to party, but that's another review. At times the narration and structure reminded me of Swamplandia!, which is a really good thing. Story-wise, if you've enjoyed T C Boyle's 'A Friend of the Earth' or 'When the Killing's Done' this might also be right up your alley.
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  • Beverly
    January 1, 1970
    I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. It was described as a "page turning new novel" and that is accurate. I never felt particularly close to any of the characters, but the plot hooked me. I wanted to know what was going to happen next so I kept reading.
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  • Cheryl
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 Stars
  • Rachel Watkins
    January 1, 1970
    Sometimes, more than parents or spouses, siblings are those we share the greatest intimacies and the harshest family histories. Only the four McCloud siblings know how deep the loss of their father and family farm is to them all, especially Tucker, the brother who connected the most to the animals, so beloved by his deceased mother. More than a story of a family broken apart by a natural disaster, THE WILDLANDS will have you discussing ecotourism, what it means to be loyal, and how far you'll go Sometimes, more than parents or spouses, siblings are those we share the greatest intimacies and the harshest family histories. Only the four McCloud siblings know how deep the loss of their father and family farm is to them all, especially Tucker, the brother who connected the most to the animals, so beloved by his deceased mother. More than a story of a family broken apart by a natural disaster, THE WILDLANDS will have you discussing ecotourism, what it means to be loyal, and how far you'll go to help your brother. This book is a spellbinding read you'll become obsessed with and exactly what I expect from Counterpoint Press. Bravo!
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  • Jamie
    January 1, 1970
    Review to come
  • Anya
    January 1, 1970
    Looks like I'm the first to add!! Seems so different from her previous book..I'm curious!
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