Rummanah Aasi
A library friend recommended that I read My Abandonment a couple of years ago. I completely forgot about it until I was looking for books to read for my Alex Award reading challenge. My Abandonment is a short, quick read but its impact and thought provoking questions linger in your mind once you finish the last page. I was really surprised that the first half of the book is inspired by a true story and the second half is what the author thinks might have happened.

Description (from Goodreads): A thirteen-year-old girl and her father live in Forest Park, the enormous nature preserve in Portland, Oregon. There they inhabit an elaborate cave shelter, bathe in a nearby creek, store perishables at the water’s edge, use a makeshift septic system, tend a garden, even keep a library of sorts. Once a week, they go to the city to buy groceries and otherwise merge with the civilized world. But one small mistake allows a backcountry jogger to discover them, which derails their entire existence, ultimately provoking a deeper flight.

Review: My Abandonment is a deceptively quiet novel. At first glance, it appears as an ordinary coming of age story that focuses on a father-daughter relationship and the setting mirrors our own, but we still can't rid of this lingering, instinctual feeling that something is not right. You see Caroline and her father are homeless and live in Forest Park, a nature preserve, not because of unfortunate circumstances but of choice. Even when they are given the opportunity to have a home and the local authorities find a job with Father, both Caroline and Father feel constrained and uncomfortable. I found Caroline and her father's lifestyle to be jarring, unusual, and to be honest a bit cockeyed. I guess the point that they are trying to make is that they feel closer to nature and at their purest when they are not tied down to  world of convenience. This aspect of the book really reminded me of the American Transcendentalism unit I had in high school, which I always thought was a good idea in theory but not really realistic.
   Just as I was trying to get comfortable at looking through Caroline's and Father's lens, the story takes a really strange and disturbing turn. We learn some startling details from the detached, wide-eyed, and innocent Caroline who obediently follows Father. As she begins to thaw and open up, we are given another account of her story which throws not only confusion and challenges us to re-evaluate the story we were told in the first half of the book, but also another complex layer of what it means to survive, love, and be alienated. I don't want to go into detail about the plot twist because I think you really need to experience it yourself.
  While I thought My Abandoment was a compelling and emotional read, I did have some problems with the writing. The voice of Caroline is not consistent. She can sound like a 10 year old in moment, an adult in another. Perhaps this was done on purpose to make us feel disconnected and now thinking back on the book makes sense, but if the author chose just one of these voices it would have made the book much more powerful. Unlike most books I've read, My Abandoment is filled with descriptive narrative with sporadic dialogue, which at times worked for me because it initially drew me into the story but it got old quickly. I quickly realized that much of the story lies in between the sentences and paragraphs.
  I would definitely recommend picking up My Abandoment is you like a compelling, psychological fiction and you are okay with having more questions than answers. There are lots of things to discuss about this book, which I think would make this an interesting choice for a bookclub.   
Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language and disturbing images. Recommended for older teens and adults.

If you like this book try: Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, Lean on Pete by Willy Vlautin
5 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    This sounds like a really interesting read! Sometimes I like when a book makes me work, and I have to read in between the lines so to speak, but other times I get frustrated and just want things to be made a little clearer for me. I'm super finicky like that:) Beautiful review Rummanah, I hadn't heard of this one before!

  2. Given what the story is about, I do think that maybe Caroline's inconstant tone was done on purpose. I'm oddly intrigued by this one. I want the spoilers. LOL

  3. Ok I am totally curious. I want to know the twist. The inner psychologist in me is dying to know. I love thought provoking books but something about this one, can't put my finger on it, is giving me the creeps!

  4. Hmm...I don't know if this is the type of book I'd like. I am intrigued by the plot, but I never was into transcendentalism. And the inconsistency of Caorline's voice is off-putting.

  5. I tend to dislike being left with questions but this one sounds kind of interesting. I'm especially curious about the plot twist and the fact that Caroline and her father choose to live in a nature preserve rather than joining society.

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