“All the Little Children,” by Jo Furniss, is fantastic. You might think that an apocalyptic plot is overused these days, even passé, but this book will blow your socks off. The story is set in northern England. It could have taken place this week. Marlene and her sister-in-law, Joni, have ventured on a camping trip deep in the woods with their kids. The trip was precipitated by Marlene’s selfish husband’s need to have them “out of his hair” while he packed up to leave the family. Marlene, a successful businesswoman, has always placed her work and her needs above those of her kids. She’s even trying to hide in the trees, talking to a partner in China, when her phone stops working. Then Peter climbs a tree and sees “volcanoes” across the countryside. Their magical trip is transformed into a nightmare. People are dead, animals are dying, and some local children- Wild Things- are left to fend for themselves.
This is a book of stark contrasts, of lyrical writing amidst the buzz of flies on dead bodies. Of selfishness and incredible sacrifice. Of Lord of the Flies and the humorous antics of little kids. I must share a quote to give you some sense of the author’s gift to her readers, of her ability to breathe vivid imagery into every moment. Marlene tells the story as she searches for some Wild Things:
We traveled a land of little terrors, a place where one misstep might kill; one gulp of tainted air, one wound we couldn’t treat, one single bullet. Death would be small. Tiny. It would snatch us in the space between one breath and the next.
“All the Little Children” recounts Marlene’s transformation as she shepherds Joni and all the little lost ones. As she is accused of murder by the very kids she struggles to save. This is a terrifying book. We see the world through Marlene’s eyes and wonder how we might cope in that wasteland. The book ends abruptly but with hope.
And I do hope the author is working on another amazing story!