Book Review: The Stranding, by Kate Sawyer

‘Is it real, do you think? Is it the end of the world?’

‘I don’t know.’

Ruth pushes herself to sit, looking out at the ocean before her. At the edge of the sea there is a pink light. ‘Look.’

Nik sits too and looks where her finger directs. The horizon appears to be glowing; the colour is starting to spread.

The Stranding

Ruth has travelled from London to New Zealand just in time (unbeknownst to her) to see the world end. On a beach, moments before it does, she meets Nik and together they clamber into the mouth of a dead whale that has been stranded there. The whale protects them and they climb out to a world where it looks like it’s just the two of them who have survived.

The book is told in two timelines which alternate telling Ruth’s life in the Before, and what led her to be on the beach that day, and her life after the whale.

His name is Nik.

He has a pick-up truck.

He’s a photographer.

How strange that she only knows these few facts about him, yet her fate feels inextricably bound to his.

The Stranding

I found this story completely engrossing and had to tear myself away from reading it. It explores being a young woman in modern society and finding love – not just loving other people, but with yourself. It’s tender and heart-breaking but also surprisingly funny for a book about the end of days. Whether it’s observations of tourists in London trying to buy breakfast items that contain neither fruit nor gluten, or wry comments about having to get used to a new bathroom routine that accompanies moving in with someone; this book made me laugh.

Having finished her book, Ruth watches the world pass by through the train window. Her mood is lighter than just four days ago, and the momentum of the train makes her feel as though she is achieving something despite sitting still. She has always wanted to experience long-distance travel by train, to cross continents overland, to see landscapes evolve as she slides along the rails from one country to the next. She has had a lifelong dream to travel on the Trans-Siberian Railway. She remembers using the dial-up internet on the family computer as a teenager, researching and putting together a budget for a journey that would take her from St Petersburg across the Gobi Desert all the way to Beijing.

The Stranding

The characters from this book will also stay with me for a long time. I felt an affinity to Ruth and her longings for travel and her secret trip-planning spreadsheets which she escapes to (yes, I have one). I know very well that feeling of just wanting to leave it all behind, run, and get on a plane and find yourself somewhere completely new. The Stranding had me thinking of places in the world I still want to go and explore, of how big the world out there is, and how little of it we will ever really know. But also the difference between going for adventure and for running away. Either way, sometimes you’ve just got to move.

The book also makes you stop and think about how humans treat the planet and how we take it for granted sometimes. With references to plastic bottles, air miles and recycling, it subtly reminds us that we should all be doing more to help protect the planet and that one day it may all end.

‘Humans!’ she says, shaking her head. ‘Have humans always been scared of what might be around the corner, do you think? Of the unknown, difference…’

The Stranding

It is a story of hope and survival and what it means to find your way back to yourself. I loved this book and thought it was so well written – I felt stranded on that New Zealand beach with Ruth and Nik.

A beautiful story with a powerful ending. My only complaint is that it wasn’t longer.

Published by luggageandscribble

Oh hey, just a girl who loves reading.

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