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Seven-year-old Wen and her parents, Eric and Andrew, are vacationing at a remote cabin on a quiet New Hampshire lake, with their closest neighbours more than two miles in either direction.
As Wen catches grasshoppers in the front yard, a stranger unexpectedly appears in the driveway. Leonard is the largest man Wen has ever seen but he is young and friendly. Leonard and Wen talk and play until Leonard abruptly apologises and tells Wen, “None of what’s going to happen is your fault”. Three more strangers arrive at the cabin carrying unidentifiable, menacing objects. As Wen sprints inside to warn her parents, Leonard calls out, “Your dads won’t want to let us in, Wen. But they have to. We need your help to save the world.”
So begins an unbearably tense, gripping tale of paranoia, sacrifice, apocalypse, and survival that escalates to a shattering conclusion, one in which the fate of a loving family and quite possibly all of humanity are intertwined.
This could be the shortest review I ever write, just by simply telling you that you need to go out and buy this book if you don’t already own it. And you certainly need to read it if it is languishing in your TBR pile. I know, I know, I am a bit late to the party, but hey, at least I arrived!
The only recent thing that has come close to my enjoyment of the book was finding out, the day after finshing it, that it is being made into an M. Night Shyamalan film due out early next year. The first released trailer looks to have captured the atmosphere of the book prefectly and I couldn’t be more excited to see it.
The beauty of Cabin as a novel is that it doesn’t go in the directions you think it is going to go in. From the very first pages, as Wen is outside collecting grasshoppers and the mysterious Leonard takes an interest in the lone child, you think you know how things are going to go. But you don’t.
And there starts a tense and sometimes horrifying exploration of faith, love, family, and duty as Leonard and his three companions deliver an ultimatum to Wen and her family that will have potentially dire consequences whichever way they chose to act.
This is a real, “what would you do?” story as Andrew and Eric struggle with their faith and belief in what Leonard has to say, but also their love and need to protect Wen. Throw in old wounds as one of their visitors is identified by Andrew, and the decision as to whether to believe Leonard and his companions becomes one that could tear the family apart.
Tremblay writes like a master. Cabin is tightly wound and builds the tension slowly, but surely. The story unfolds from various perspectives as each chapter looks at events from a different character. There is no repetition here, though, and this structure works exceedingly well at presenting all the different perspectives but maintaining a solid, logical narrative that guides you through the story. Even so, much like the opening chapter with Wen, it doesn’t always go in the direction you are expecting it to.
This is only the second book I have read by Tremblay after A Head Full of Ghosts but, like the 11 year old me who had just finished reading his first Stephen King book, I am hooked and now I want to read them all.
Long may he continue to chill and delight!
Paul Tremblay has won the Bram Stoker, British Fantasy, and Massachusetts Book awards and is the author of Survivor Song, The Cabin at the End of the World, Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, A Head Full of Ghosts, the crime novels The Little Sleep and No Sleep Till Wonderland, and the short story collection, Growing Things and Other Stories.
His essays and short fiction have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Entertainment Weekly online, and numerous year’s-best anthologies. He has a master’s degree in mathematics and lives outside Boston with his family.