Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller
My Rating: 4.5/5
Synopsis: Peggy is eight years old when her father takes her to live in a cabin in a remote European forest. There, he tells her that her mother and the rest of the world are gone.
Now the two of them must scratch a living from the earth: trapping squirrels, foraging for berries, surviving a winter as best they can.
But it is easy to lose your way in the forest, to lose yourself. How long will Peggy believe her father’s story? How long can you stay sane when the world is lost? And what happens when you stop believing in everything?
This book is breath-taking and harrowing. Lyrical prose combines with the strong yet confused heroine of Peggy, and a web of lies weaved by her survivalist father. It’s hard to believe this is Fuller’s first novel; the voice and style she has crafted for Peggy is excellent, both whimsical and desolate. I struggled to put this book down, even when it got to slightly slower parts.
This isn’t really a story of physical action, but one of psychological threats. Peggy is kidnapped by her father and the two live in a ramshackle cabin in a forest far from civilization. We see Peggy grow from an eight-year-old who adores her father, despite his wrongs, to a wild seventeen-year-old, discovering her sexuality and independence as her father’s state deteriorates.
I felt so sorry for Peggy. Even though she adapts to life in the forest, it is not enough for a growing girl. A soundless piano is her only friend as she struggles to come to terms with periods and sexual desire. I’m really glad Fuller didn’t gloss over the harsh realities of a girl entering puberty whilst living in the wilderness, with no real authority figure to explain these changes to her. Peggy’s confusion and embarrassment only adds to the harrowing atmosphere of the novel, another obstacle she is forced to overcome on her own.
The novel flits between ‘Punzel’ (short for Rapunzel), as Peggy chooses to be called in the forest, to Peggy in 1985 in the aftermath of the kidnapping. 1985 Peggy drops hints to the reader of what is to come, such as the fate of her father and the existence of a strange man named Reuben.
However, I don’t want to give too much away as there is a big twist at the end of the novel. I confess it was a little predictable for this genre, but still a relative shock. Yet, for me, it just didn’t quite fit. It was one of those twists that should have clicked in your mind, where suddenly you think back to all the hints that were dropped, and where any ambiguities become clear. But, in actuality, I didn’t have any of those realisations. It was a shock, sure, but I couldn’t think back and see it coming within the narrative. It was the last puzzle piece that didn’t slot in quite right. That’s why I’ve given this novel 4.5/5 instead of the full 5/5.
Despite this slight let down, I did still really enjoy the novel. It was bleak, but tinged with hope, and Peggy was an extremely sympathetic character. Fuller is definitely an author whose writing I’m excited to read more of, regardless of genre or story-line. Whilst the twist didn’t quite work for me, I might have missed something, so don’t pass over this book just because of that! It’s an extremely well-written novel and I urge you to pick up a copy if you haven’t already.
Have you read Our Endless Numbered Days? What did you think? Did you like the twist? Let me know in the comments below!