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  • Writer's pictureMandy McHugh

In the Clearing, JP Pomare: A Review

Mulholland is quickly becoming one of my favorite publishing houses. Their 2020 lineup has put out some stellar titles, and In the Clearing is definitely on my must-read list.

Freya is an anxious mother determined to protect her son from her troubled past. Amy is an unwitting member of a cult led by a charming, manipulative woman and an abusive, sadistic man. As children begin to go missing, both women must deal with the consequences in order to survive. Protect the Queen. Told in alternating POVs, this story is gripping from page one. Freya's voice is strong in its execution, authentic in her struggle to balance wanting a normal life and protecting her son from the very real dangers of her world. Amy is a complex character with layers of doubt and confusion. I found her story arc to be especially compelling, and to avoid spoilers, utterly engrossing in her struggle to right her moral compass. Pomare does an excellent job of weaving together these two narratives seamlessly while maintaining the fast pace that this plot requires. The writing was swift and pointed, and my favorite moments, perhaps, were in the examination of the Blackmarsh Cult. I could've read about their absurd and dangerous behaviors all day; in fact while I wanted more of the rationale behind the twelve perfect children, I loved that the ambiguity mirrored the realistic parameters of actual cults, in that there are far fewer answers that make sense than questions. I've read quite a few cult narratives this year, and this one held my attention the entire read. Additionally, I loved the underlying metaphor of the structure of the cult. The leader, the queen bee, and the children, the worker bees. Pomare portrays Hive Mentality in the literal sense, gaining the trust and admiration of the children through rote memorization of beliefs, intimidation, and fear of the outside. At its core, In the Clearing is a story about accepting the past and all the pain that comes with it. It's about a mother's love and mental health--the stigma that sometimes surrounds postnatal depression and the isolation young mothers can feel. It's about manipulation and innocence and the ruinous power of blind trust. And it's fantastic. Overall, In the Clearing is a smart, twisty, thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last page. Big thanks to Mulholland and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.


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