Book Review: ‘The Cabin at the End of the World’ by Paul Tremblay

In ‘A Cabin at the End of the World,’ Eric and Andrew bring their daughter, Wen, to a secluded cabin for a holiday, and a much needed chance to unplug.  They are soon confronted by a group of four strangers who break in and hold them hostage, claiming that the end of the world in imminent.  The only way to stop it?  The family of three must sacrifice one of its members.

Have you read Paul Tremblay?  If not, go and immediately read anything of his that you can get your hands on.

Got it?  Good.  Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I can proceed to rave about his latest work.

Spoiler alert: I loved this book!

First of all, gay couples are not often seen in horror novels.  Andrew and Eric’s characters were fantastically drawn.  They were two parents who are absolutely in love with their daughter.  One is overprotective and worried about never being the fun parent.  The other is the fun parent, and worries that the other doesn’t see him as responsible enough.  What made their characters so refreshing is that they are drawn to be parents, nothing more, nothing less.  Sexual identity or gender politics doesn’t play into the story, and there are certainly no stereotypes to be found here.  You could just as easily place a straight couple in the story and they would be just as relatable.  This novel does an amazing job of making you love and relate to these characters from the start; it is the purest form of inclusion.  Eric and Andrew are who they are, and are not there to fill a quota, or serve a political purpose.  They are simply two people placed in a horrific situation and doing everything that they can to protect their daughter.

I also loved how the three main protagonists were given three separate voices, with parts of the same situation being played out from different perspectives as a suspense builder.  As the novel went on, it becomes almost uncomfortable and claustrophobic as things begin to happen that test their relationships with one another, as well as how they think of themselves.  In particular, I loved hearing from Wen.  Her voice was very unique in that it was clearly a child, but it allowed for her to speak very matter-of-factly and to the point.  She knew how she felt about what was happening and was sure about those feelings.  She was confused at the situation, to be sure, but definitely not confused about how she felt, which is something that I find that we tend to do as adults.  We qualify or justify our feelings, resulting in sometimes denying how we feel.  This sort of naked portrayal of a child’s emotions felt very fresh and raw.

This book is so effective in that this is a classic “big fear” for everyone.  The family is invaded in a place they thought they were safe.  The idyllic scenario of a vacation quickly turns the cabin into a place of fear, and the isolation that was once a reprieve becomes their enemy.  This combines the fact that everyone in the cabin is tortured with doubt.  The quartet that invades the home seems reasonable and calm, and the fact that they are so sure of themselves slowly causes the reader doubt.  They are in the middle of nowhere, with no contact with the outside world other than a television set.  Could their tormentors be telling the truth?  Or is it all just a sick game?

The answer to that question is for you to read, and definitely not for me to tell you!  Let me know what you thought of this one!

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