Peggy Hillcoat is an eight-year-old girl growing up in London with her concert pianist, German mother and English, survivalist-leaning father. When her mother goes on a concert tour, her father takes her to a run-down cabin in the remote woods of Germany and tells her that the rest of the world has been destroyed, including all of her family and friends.
Our Endless Numbered Days (2015) by Claire Fuller alternates between Peggy growing up in the woods with her father, and when Peggy is recently returned to her mother in London at seventeen years old. We immediately know that Peggy’s father is dead, and there’s a lot of shit she needs to work through. The rest is a mystery.
Part very odd coming-of-age story, part survivalist adventure, part family drama, Fuller balances a lot in this book. It’s not until the end that the reader finally figures out the full truth of what has happened.
Imagine a little girl, thinking she’s lost her mother, her grandmother, and her best friend forever–that she thinks she’ll never be able to leave the spartan cabin and little meadow that is her new home. Her father is her only companion and has kept her alive for years. But he’s also mentally unstable, took her away from her life, and lied to her. The haunting combination of love and betrayal that Peggy has to deal with when considering her father is unfathomable. It really made me think about how vulnerable children of mentally ill parents are.
Peggy is a child, not initially capable of understanding everything that is going on, and she is dealing with intense and traumatic experiences. Thus, she is an unreliable narrator. The reader has to figure out what’s going on between the lines. There is some question throughout the book as events happen that seem unlikely. There are no happy endings and tidy summations for Peggy. She’s gone through a lot and is incredibly resilient, but the story leaves her with more. This was a book that kept me turning the pages and stuck with me in the end.
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