Author(s): Diane Cook
"The New Wilderness is a virtuosic debut, brutal and beautiful in equal measure." --Emily St. John Mandel, New York Times bestselling author of Station Eleven
Margaret Atwood meets Miranda July in this wildly imaginative debut novel of a mother's battle to save her daughter in a world ravaged by climate change; A prescient and suspenseful book from the author of the acclaimed story collection, MAN V. NATURE.
Bea's five-year-old daughter, Agnes, is slowly wasting away, consumed by the smog and pollution of the overdeveloped metropolis that most of the population now calls home. If they stay in the city, Agnes will die. There is only one alternative: the Wilderness State, the last swath of untouched, protected land, where people have always been forbidden. Until now.
Bea, Agnes, and eighteen others volunteer to live in the Wilderness State, guinea pigs in an experiment to see if humans can exist in nature without destroying it. Living as nomadic hunter-gatherers, they slowly and painfully learn to survive in an unpredictable, dangerous land, bickering and battling for power and control as they betray and save one another.
But as Agnes embraces the wild freedom of this new existence, Bea realizes that saving her daughter's life means losing her in a different way. The farther they get from civilization, the more their bond is tested in astonishing and heartbreaking ways.
At once a blazing lament of our contempt for nature and a deeply humane portrayal of motherhood and what it means to be human, The New Wilderness is an extraordinary novel from a one-of-a-kind literary force.
Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2020
'The New Wilderness is a virtuosic debut, brutal and beautiful in equal measure.' * Emily St. John Mandel, author of Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel * 'Soulful, urgent... Cook is adept at matter-of-factly deploying unadorned detail to deadpanning, gut-plummeting effect... Supremely well-crafted... So much else is broached in these vivid, timely pages: tribalism, courage, consumption, storytelling itself - an art that Cook spirits back to its spark-enlivened, campfire origins. What lingers, though, beyond the awesome power of Bea and Agnes as heroines, is pure wonderment at all in this world of ours that is not human.' * Observer * 'Wonderfully imagined and written, this is a tense future-shock novel that's also a tender exploration of a mother-daughter relationship under extreme pressure.' * Booker Prize judges * 'The New Wilderness is Diane Cook's debut novel that brings to life a wildly imaginative and terrifying dystopian story of a mother's battle to save her daughter from a world ravaged by climate change. Touching on humanity and our contempt for nature, this is a timely and compelling novel.' * Independent * 'The unease between mother and daughter as they navigate disparate understandings of self, belonging, society and each other is the beating heart of the novel... Cook takes command of a fast-paced, thrilling story to ask stomach-turning questions in a moment when it would benefit every soul to have their stomach turned by the prospect of the future she envisions.' * Tea Obreht, Guardian * 'A visceral, elemental performance... Dense with believable detail.' * The Sunday Times * 'Riveting... Bleakly compelling, and leavened by wry, sparkling humour that Cook combines seamlessly with existential dread.' * Daily Telegraph * 'This gut-wrenching story of survival, danger, power, control and, most importantly, love is one you won't want to put down.' * CNN * 'In her gripping and provoking debut novel, Cook extends the shrewd and implacable dramatization of our catastrophic assault on the biosphere that she so boldly launched in her short story collection, Man V. Nature (2014)... Violence, death, tribalism, lust, love, betrayals, wonder, genius and courage - all are enacted in this stunningly incisive and complexly suspenseful tale akin to dystopian novels by Margaret Atwood and Claire Vaye Watkins.' * Booklist (starred review) * 'This Booker-longlisted novel also paints a deft portrait of human nature.' * Daily Mail * 'A wry, speculative debut novel... Cook's unsettling, darkly humorous tale explores maternal love and man's disdain for nature with impressive results.' * Publishers Weekly (starred review) * 'The New Wilderness left me as stunned as a deer in headlights. Gut-wrenching and heart-wrecking, this is a book that demands to be read, and urgently. With beauty and compassion, Diane Cook writes about the precariousness of life on this planet, about the things that make us human - foremost the love between mothers and daughters, at once complex and elemental. Cook observes humanity as a zoologist might - seeing us exactly as the strange animals we really are.' * Rachel Khong, author of Goodbye, Vitamin * 'An absolutely riveting and propulsive novel. Terrifying, and as real as can be. Epic in scale and story; granular and recognisable in people and place. The New Wilderness is surely an instant classic in our stories of survival, sovereignty and adaptation. Cook's writing is so sure-footed, prescient and trustworthy, it's all the reader can do to follow her. For fans of Ling Ma's Severance and Hernan Diaz's In the Distance, and many, many readers in between.' * Caoilinn Hughes, author of The Wild Laughter * 'Cook's is a fresh and vivid voice; it's unsurprising the likes of Miranda July and Roxane Gay are fans.' * Observer * 'Diane Cook upends old tropes of autonomy, survival, and civilization to reveal startling new life teeming beneath, giving a glimpse into the ways the world we think we know could come unstuck and come to life in the care of the women and girls of the future. This is not just a thrilling, curious, vibrant book - but an essential one, a compass to guide us into the future.' * Alexandra Kleeman, author of You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine * 'The New Wilderness strips us of our veneer of civilisation and exposes us for what we are: driven to survive, capable of shocking cruelty and profound, fierce love. This story of what a mother does to save her daughter is unflinching, horrifying, forgiving, deeply moving, and filled with truth that stayed with this mother long after the final page.' * Helen Sedgwick, author of The Comet Seekers * 'The emotional core of the story is the relationship between Bea and Agnes, whose perspectives drive the narrative. It's a damning piece of horror cli-fi, but it's also a gripping and profound examination of love and sacrifice.' * Buzzfeed * 'The push-pull of ambivalent but powerful love between mother and daughter centers the novel... Cook also raises uncomfortable questions: How far will a person go to survive, and what sacrifices will she or won't she make for those she loves? This ecological horror story (particularly horrifying now) explores painful regions of the human heart.' * Kirkus (starred review) * 'The novel tackles the deepest of human emotions-as well as big ideas about the planet-in satisfying ways. Also, it's a page-turner!' * LitHub * 'As close to experiencing a Picasso as literature can get.' * Tea Obreht, author of The Tiger's Wife (on Man V. Nature) * 'An imaginative, dystopian look at what our world could become... I was gripped by how vivid the story was, how expertly Diane Cook got into the dynamics of a group of strangers surviving in the wild, and their relationship with those in power.' * Hey Alma - Favourite Books for Summer * 'Cook is an accomplished writer with a darkly comic touch.' * Irish Times * 'Unsettling but riveting debut novel... Halfway through, the story changes to the daughter's perspective - a clever ploy by Cook... It's this meditation on mother-daughter relationships (and by extension, humanity's relationship with Mother Nature) that provides the emotional heft in this thrilling, allegorical tale, a cross between a nature documentary, ecological nightmare and a Bear Grylls reality survival show... The New Wilderness is bleakly compelling, and leavened by wry, sparkling humour that Cook combines seamlessly with existential dread.' * Irish Independent *
Diane Cook is a novelist and short story writer. Her collection, Man v. Nature (Oneworld, 2015), was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and the L.A. Times Book Prize. Her stories have appeared in Harper's, Tin House and Granta, and been anthologised in Best American Short Stories. The New Wilderness is her debut novel. She lives in Brooklyn.