Lark Ascending by Silas House reminded me of some aspects of early Gilead in The Handmaid’s Tale. So really take that visual in real quick. A survival tale of a boy, a dog, and a woman navigating life on the fringe, avoiding the ruling extremist group. Continue reading to see my insight on this new book by Silas House!
A riveting story of survival and hope, set in the not-too-distant future, about a young man forced to flee the United States and seek refuge across the Atlantic.
As fires devastate most of the United States, Lark and his family secure a place on a refugee boat headed to Ireland, the last country not yet overrun by extremists and rumored to be accepting American refugees. But Lark is the only one to survive the trip, and once ashore, he doesn’t find the safe haven he’d hoped for. As he runs for his life, Lark finds an abandoned dog who becomes his closest companion, and then a woman in search of her lost son. Together they form a makeshift family and attempt to reach Glendalough, a place they believe will offer protection. But can any community provide the safety that they seek?
For readers of novels such as Station Eleven, The Dog Stars, and Migrations, Lark Ascending is a moving and unforgettable story of friendship, family, and healing.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
While this is not a post-civilization story, it is still a survival story from the point of refugees or a rising extremist group in the US and abroad. Due to the survivalist nature of Lark Ascending, the book is fast-moving and the reader is on edge. Lark is unsure who to trust, having lived most of his life in these times only trusting the handful of people he lived with in Nova Scotia. Now he is in Ireland alone. House does a great job of making the reader unsure of the motivations of certain characters that appear. As a reader, you then doubt them as Lark would have realistically done in his situation.
Additionally, what makes Lark Ascending unsettling is its possible realness of it. The emergence of extremist groups and raging wildfires is quite surreal. I did find, especially as I’m writing this, that the escape from extremists overshadows the environmental side of things. House did include the discussion of fires, storms, and famines that lead to certain consequences. (I.e. the outlawing of pets, the importance of Lark’s mom saving seeds, intense and changing weather patterns, etc.). In the end, while it seemed in the synopsis that this would be a larger focus of the book, it was not as prominent as I would have expected.
Most of the Lark Ascending was from the point of view of Lark recounting his story as an old man. But for a small bit of the story, we get the story from the point of view of Seamus. Seamus, the beagle. As in the dog. Such a delight. It is not funny or heartwarming or anything, but I just enjoyed part of the story from the narration of the dog. While one could take issue with a dog’s POV waxing poetic about waves, I was fine with it. It was also interesting to see the changes in the world through the eyes of a dog, especially in a world in which all pets were illegal due to food instability. Even for those brief moments, it was an interesting narration device that was well done.
Lark Ascending was a pretty bleak book when everything is considered. But don’t let that keep you from reading it. I did enjoy reading this book. As a reader, I was invested in the characters and was experiencing the nail-biting dangers of this possible future. Personally, I am now interested in reading other books by Silas House.
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