The Sunlight Pilgrims

Sunlight PilgrimsAuthor: Jenni Fagan

Publisher: Hogarth

Release Date: July 19, 2016

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Dark, slightly depressing, slightly funny, mostly interesting, and very, very debatable.

Dylan McRae has just inherited his family’s cinema in the London Soho district. Only problem is, it is completely in debt and there is no way that he can save it.  Having lost his grandmother and then his mother six months later, he decides to take their ashes from London back to his gran’s homeland of Scotland to scatter them in the northern islands.  He will have to wait until the spring as it is November 2020 and with the jet stream cooling off, the temperatures have plummeted to below zero.  Forecasters are saying this will be the worst winter in history and a new ice age is upon us.  So, Dylan goes to stay at a caravan his mother purchased.  Upon arriving at the caravan park, he begins to meet his neighbors.  The first is a young girl named Stella and her mother Constance.  Stella was a boy named Cael until just over a year ago when she let everyone know she was being called by the wrong name and associated with the wrong gender.  Constance is a prepper who has been getting ready for a winter like this her whole life.  In the region of Clachan Fells, winters often get gray and stay that way.  Can the new relationship between the three of them see it through the winter?  Or will the new ice age take their identities?

The Sunlight Pilgrims is definitely a different read than what I have had so far this year.  I thought it was going to be more about prepping for a doomsday scenario, similar to several other books out there, but it was really more just about the lives of two people during a snapshot of time that happens to be during a doomsday scenario.  The main character of the book is Dylan.  The reader follows his life from the time after his mum had died in October 2020 to the end of March in 2021.  There is a little history that is brought in from time to time that deals with his family tree and connection to Constance and Stella, but it is mainly about his current actions.  The other main character is Stella.  There is some history with her that we don’t really get to know fully.  There was an event after her gender crisis that really shaped her personality that is mentioned but overall details are not really given.  I would have like to have delved a little further into that, but even so her point of view was probably the most interesting.

There is a significant amount of foul language in this book as well as the afore mentioned issue of gender identity crisis. There are likely several people who will find this book could be written in today’s time frame.  Fagan did a great job of portraying Stella’s emotions as a teenage girl even though she is still genetically a boy.  Made for a different spin in the main books that I’ve read this year.

Even though a large portion of this book is devoted to Stella and she is a youth, this is not what I would consider a YA genre novel. I wouldn’t recommend it until university age.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through the Penguin Random House blog program. The views and opinions expressed throughout are mine.

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