ARC REVIEW: Above by Isla Morley
by Isla Morley
Expected Publication: March 4, 2014
I am a secret no one is able to tell.
Blythe Hallowell is sixteen when she is abducted by a survivalist and locked away in an abandoned missile silo in Eudora, Kansas. At first, she focuses frantically on finding a way out, until the harrowing truth of her new existence settles in—the crushing loneliness, the terrifying madness of a captor who believes he is saving her from the end of the world, and the persistent temptation to give up. But nothing prepares Blythe for the burden of raising a child in confinement. Determined to give the boy everything she has lost, she pushes aside the truth about a world he may never see for a myth that just might give meaning to their lives below ground. Years later, their lives are ambushed by an event at once promising and devastating. As Blythe’s dream of going home hangs in the balance, she faces the ultimate choice—between survival and freedom.
MY THOUGHTS: 5 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
*****SPOILERS IN REVIEW BELOW*****
I finished this book this morning, but I’ve been pontificating on it for a few hours, deciding what I was going to write in this review. This is a long book, and so much happens that I don’t want to spoil for anyone.
At 16 years old, Blythe Hallowell is kidnapped and taken to an underground bunker by a man named Dobbs. He tells her she has been chosen because a cataclysmic event is about to hit Earth, and she will be the one to repopulate the planet.
And in the blink of an eye, she has been down in Dobbs’ bunker for 17 years. She is now mother to a 15 year old boy named Adam, and suddenly they have the chance to be free. But when all you’ve dreamed about is one thing for nearly 2 decades, how can you cope when what you’ve been longing for is totally gone?
This book was a page turner, and definitely in the vein of books such as Room, and even true stories like the Ariel Castro kidnappings. The best part is that the story is told in first person, so you get to know the thoughts, fears, and dreams of Blythe for the long long years she was held captive, and after she goes back into the world.
So many elements of the story are heartbreaking. Let’s not even include the fact that the book is about a kidnapped girl. Blythe also has to deal with being raped, bearing children that she didn’t really want, and then the aftermath–seeing that the home she so badly wanted to go back to is gone and her family all dead; wanting to protect her son but knowing he needs to be let go. And then–how do you deal with loving the son you never knew you wanted. Do you hate the one who gave him to you, through force, even though the boy is the best thing in your life?
Above interestingly combines a tale of surviving being taken with one of emerging into a dystopian America. Blythe always believed Dobbs was crazy for telling her the end of the world was coming; she never could have imagined the truth he was telling her. Do you hate the one who kept you alive, even though it cost you everything?
This novel has amazing characterization. The reader even learns unexpected things about the kidnapper towards the end of the story. It’s amazing to see the new world through a man-child’s eyes as he gets his first taste of freedom. It’s heart-wrenching to see his mother come to terms with all of her conflicting emotions.
I would recommend Above to nearly everyone, because I think so many different types of people could relate to it: mothers, sons, women, and just those who want to escape into excellent fiction.
About the Author
Isla Morley grew up in South Africa during apartheid, the child of a British father and fourth-generation South African mother. During the country’s State of Emergency, she graduated from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth with a degree in English Literature.
By 1994 she was one of the youngest magazine editors in South Africa, but left career, country and kin when she married an American and moved to California. For more than a decade she pursued a career in non-profit work, focusing on the needs of women and children.
Her debut novel, COME SUNDAY, was awarded the Janet Heidinger Kafka Award for Fiction in 2009, and was a finalist for the Commonwealth Prize. It has been translated into seven languages.
She has lived in some of the most culturally diverse places of the world, including Johannesburg, London and Honolulu. Now in the Los Angeles area, she shares a home with her husband, daughter, two cats, a dog and a tortoise.