“I never heard the siren. I slept through the rising wind and tree branches wrenching loose and colliding with the roof. I glanced out the window and saw the Oklahoma sky soaked with a new color. Damp jade. Split pea soup. Moss on stone.”
I’m Betty Martin with "Martin’s Must Reads" and that’s a quote from the first page of Abby Geni’s novel The Wildlands. Four siblings living in Mercy, Oklahoma, experience a Category 5 tornado that takes their home, their farm animals, and, their father. With no insurance to help them survive, the oldest daughter, Darlene gives up her dream of college and takes a job at the local grocery store to keep the four of them together. Her 17 year old brother, Tucker, an animal lover, disappears three months after the storm and becomes a radical animal rights activist. On the third anniversary of the tornado, a bomb explodes in the cosmetics factory outside of Mercy. Tucker has returned and seeks the help of his 9-year old sister Cora. They head west staying under the radar and wreaking havoc on animal abusers ending with a showdown at a California zoo.
The tension throughout the book makes it hard to put down. The story also says a lot about sibling relationships, hope and the idea of happy endings. Darlene comes to realize that “she did not believe in happy endings. There was only the present moment, the passage of breath into breath, action and reaction, word after word, a story that was still being told.”
If you like a well told story, you must read The Wildlands by Abby Geni.