Title: In the Clearing
Author: J.P. Pomare
Published: December 31st 2019
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Genres: Fiction, Thriller, Suspense
Rating: 4.5 stars
HOW FAR WOULD YOU GO TO PROTECT YOUR FAMILY?
Amy has only ever known life in the Clearing. She knows what’s expected of her. She knows what to do to please her elders, and how to make sure the community remains happy and calm. That is, until a new young girl joins the group. She isn’t fitting in; she doesn’t want to stay. What happens next will turn life as Amy knows it on its head.
Freya has gone to great lengths to feel like a ‘normal person’. In fact, if you saw her go about her day with her young son, you’d think she was an everyday mum. That is, until a young girl goes missing and someone from her past, someone she hasn’t seen for a very long time, arrives in town.
As secrets of the past bubble up to the surface, this small town’s dark underbelly will be exposed and lives will be destroyed.
‘I knew I would always be burdened with the past.’
It has been quite the year for J.P. Pomare, the author of Call Me Evie and In the Clearing. Pomare won the Nagio Marsh award for best first novel. This is a brilliant accolade for the New Zealand born author, who now resides in Melbourne. In the Clearing is an extremely polished thriller that will keep you guessing from the moment you open this addictive novel to the very last word.
The construction of family dominates the second novel by J.P. Pomare. It follows two story threads. One of these is the story of Amy, a teenage girl who lives in a rural section of land in Victoria known as the ‘Clearing’. Amy is governed by the tight rules and regulations of the elders of the Clearing, who take care of her. The community in which she lives is isolated and orderly, with everyone working to maintain a sense of calm. When a newcomer joins the group, this tight knit community is disturbed. The newest member of the Clearing has no plans to stay. This has serious implications for all who reside in the Clearing. Running alongside this compelling tale is the life of Freya, a woman who continually strives to maintain a sense of normality in her day to day existence. The mother of a young son, Freya is visibly moved by the recent missing person’s case of a young girl, which also coincides with the reappearance of someone from her past that Freya would care to forget. A clash between the past and present occurs as Freya fights to maintain the safety of her family.
Exactly a year ago, I was reading Call Me Evie, the debut novel by J.P. Pomare. I remember being utterly consumed by this thrilling tale over the Christmas and New Year break. I took the second novel by J.P. Pomare away with me on holiday again over the recent Christmas/New Year period and I’m so glad I did. This one blew me away, it was an unpredictable, boundary pushing style read, that gripped me from the start to the finish. I can’t wait to see what Pomare dishes up for me in the next Christmas and New Year period, what a brilliant reading tradition we have going!
If you are like me and you are more than a little intrigued by cults, this one will really draw your appeal. The whole idea of being cut off from the world, brainwashed and subjected to the total control of one leader certainly draws plenty of curiosity.The Family, a well-known cult that operated in Australia is the inspiration for this book. Pomare does an excellent job of showing us all sides of the spectrum in terms of these communities. We see what life is like for the leaders, the follows and the newcomers. Pomare covers all bases, including the perception of the public in relation to these groups. In the Clearing is a chilling story, full of power, control, suppression and even abuse. It can make for slightly difficult reading, but it is worth its weight in gold.
I liked the format of this novel very much. In the Clearing is divided into six different, but equally engrossing parts, followed by an epilogue. In the Clearing is also told in the present tense, so the events feel real, hurried and pertinent. This novel deftly switches perspectives, encompassing the lives of two female characters, which Pomare embodies incredibly well. This form of narration provides the reader with a sensational insight into the happenings of this novel. I was able to directly situate myself in the events of In the Clearing very well, until Pomare delivered a series of explosive twists! I cursed myself for not seeing any of these twists and I was unable to predict what was coming. Pomare is a clever writer, who is able to stay that one step ahead of his audience.
In the Clearing is all about atmosphere and tension. The Clearing is rendered perfectly, thanks to Pomare’s spot on prose. Pomare is able to convey so much in a short turn of the phrase. I also noted that Pomare’s writing rolls of the page with a sense of urgency. I did do a double take and a back track a few times to check to see if I had acknowledged what had just happened! This was a mind blowing read. What I also appreciated were the breaks between the narratives that included one of the lead’s journal entries. This proved to be a clever and compelling narrative device, that added an extra flourish to this incredibly addictive tale.
Everything culminates in a dramatic showdown by the close of the book, which did leave me a little disheveled by the book’s close. In the Clearing is ingenious in its delivery and it will easily monopolise your time, in a good way! I’m eagerly awaiting my next Christmas/New Year reading sojourn with J.P. Pomare!
‘I’ve got to accept who I was, where I came from and who I am now.’
In the Clearing by J.P. Pomare is published by Hachette Australia. Out now. $32.99
*Thanks is extended to Hachette Australia for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.