When a Category 5 tornado hits Mercy, Oklahoma, the McCloud siblings—Darlene, Tucker, Jane and Cora—lose their house and their father (having already lost their mother). So begins The Wildlands, a new literary thriller by Abby Geni (The Lightkeepers).
Darlene, the eldest, abandons her plans for college to look after her siblings. Tucker abandons his sisters and disappears for three years, returning only after he’s rebranded himself as an eco-terrorist in the wake of a cosmetics factory bombing.
And here’s where the story really picks up.
Injured from the explosion, Tucker enlists 9-year-old Cora as his caretaker and unwitting accomplice. The two go on the lam, traveling west to carry out Tucker’s plan to wreak havoc on anyone who contributes to the mistreatment of animals.
Cora, who narrates much of the novel, is blinded by her admiration for the person her brother used to be, but we can still track his downward spiral and Cora’s confusion about his motivations. We also see her struggle, albeit subconsciously, to reconcile her love for someone whose actions she doesn’t understand. At the same time, we watch Darlene search for her sister, growing more desperate—and warier—by the day.
Fast-paced and gripping to the last page, The Wildlands is a fascinating look at the tension between activism and fanaticism and between the human and animal worlds.