Author: Tania Unsworth
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: sci-fi, dystopia-post-apocalyptic
The One Safe Place is the kind of heartfelt book that I come across only once in a while. It doesn’t go overboard in its message and delivers only the simplest of them- indeed one so ordinary, it’s a way of living: when life tries to knock you down, stumble back on your friends.
After his grandfather dies of old age and leaves him alone in their isolated paradise of a valley, a hidden island in the decrepit world outside that is like a fairytale to him, relegated in stories of both marvel and peril, the burden of their farm and its silence becomes too heavy for Devin and he ventures out into the nearest city to find help.
From then on, the realities of the world he never knew are revealed to him in dark alleys, turbulent rains and girls on rooftops who bear scars of a worse life than the scrounging creature she’s become now. Comes along a teenager who promises them a world or comfort, removed from all misery, seemingly pulled right out of their myths and stories. Only not everything is right, some kids disappear with nothing of theirs left behind but a picture of them with the centenarian folks that have adopted them, others go insane right if front of him yet he’s never to speak of it.
OH AND THE PREMISE OF KIDS V/S ADULTS. EVERYWHERE. I WILL ALWAYS LOVE IT, AND SO SHOULD YOU.
There are lots of subtexts in between, friendships and mistakes of a child that cause another everything, guilt and terror and lost sisters, doubts that can break you and yours, forgiveness, and above all, the want. The want of a street-hardened urchin for a millionaire family who’ll never take a belt to her for looking the wrong way, even if it costs her mind, her childhood; and the unacceptable, of old decrepits who can’t let go of what they once had.
Too many emotions are jam-packed in this story yet it is never too much, too gratuitous because sprinkled like toppings is the delicate, indelicate and outright disgusting humor that plagues everyone at the most freeing of times in their lives.
However, there’s a certain quality to the writing that distances the reader from the story and its characters, so what you read is not often what you feel, which was a damn shame indeed. Moreover, vagueness in words, lack of concise descriptions and etc is filled by the direct, unfiltered experiences of kids who know very little: this was to be expected but it lent a sparseness that not everyone, including me, enjoys.
In retrospect, The One Safe Place was a remarkable story, whose reins I couldn’t exactly manage to fit in while on the right for several reasons, but I’m sure there’s a more perceptive audience out there who’ll definitely treasure this story close to their hearts.
Thank you Algonquin Books!