I broke one of my personal reading rules with this book – always read a series in order. The Unfamiliar Garden is book two in The Comet Cycle…which, in my defense, I didn’t realize when I started reading it. But luckily for me, the stories in the Comet Cycle seem to be more interrelated than sequential.
In this world, there was a comet. It came close enough to Earth to be amazing, but not close enough to hit. A year goes by, and the Earth’s orbit now passes directly through the debris field the comet left behind. The damage is catastrophic in many places, and leads to years-long disruptions in weather patterns.
On the night of the meteor shower, Jack Abernathy takes his daughter with him to hunt mushrooms in the woods outside of Seattle. Jack is a botanist who specialized in mycology – the study of fungus and mushrooms. Mia is eight, too young to stay at home while Jack goes hunting and her mother, Nora, is on the clock as a police detective. While Jack and Mia are out in the woods, Mia disappears.
Flash forward five years, and Jack and Nora’s marriage has not survived their daughter’s disappearance. Neither parent is coping well: Nora is borderline compulsive about germs and hygiene, and Jack is busy drinking too much and generally self-destructing. And then it rains, for the first time in five years. And Nora gets called to a grisly murder scene. And Jack gets a call to investigate some strange fungal activity out in the woods, very near the place where Mia was last seen.
And we just launch from there. This book is equal parts thriller, family portrait, and eco-horror, and the plot moves. This is a deceptively quick read, packing a heck of a punch into 208 pages, and the end man, it get bonkers in a fantastic way. I’ve seen comparisons between this book and Jeff Van Der Meer’s Annihilation, and while I understand them, this book has a much different and in some ways more accessible tone.
Highly recommend, and I’ll definitely be picking up the first book.