Wylodine comes from a world of paranoia and poverty—her family grows marijuana illegally, and life has always been a battle. Now she’s been left behind to tend the crop alone. Then spring doesn’t return for the second year in a row, bringing unprecedented extreme winter.
With grow lights stashed in her truck and a pouch of precious seeds, she begins a journey, determined to start over away from Appalachian Ohio. But the icy roads and strangers hidden in the hills are treacherous. After a harrowing encounter with a violent cult, Wylodine and her small group of exiles become a target for its volatile leader. Because she has the most valuable skill in the climate chaos: she can make things grow.
Urgent and poignant, Road Out of Winter is a glimpse of an all-too-possible near future, with a chosen family forged in the face of dystopian collapse. With the gripping suspense of The Road and the lyricism of Station Eleven, Stine’s vision is of a changing world where an unexpected hero searches for a place hope might take root.
Obviously, this is an unusual book description – which is one of the reasons I requested it. The other is that I grew up in the Appalachian Mountains and was curious to see how a story like this would play out in that area.
Wylodine is a wonderful protagonist – strong, determined, scarred, and soft-hearted. If you find yourself in an apocalyptic-type of event, you could do worse than hooking your wagon to hers. Mostly shunned by the community because of her family business, then being practically abandoned by her mother, with the exception of one good friend, she’s alone when everything starts to go off the rails in her town. In order to survive, going it alone isn’t the best option right now, and she soon comes across people she learns to trust and depend on. Finding your people is a strong theme in this story – like-minded folks who do what they can to form a community and care for each other. Tragedy can bring out the best in people, but it also draws power-hungry individuals on the wrong side of the morality scale, and Wil and friends run across some of the worst mankind has to offer.
The abrupt ending took me by surprise – I even wondered if pages were missing – so a sequel may be a possibility.
To say I enjoyed such a dark, heart-breaking, grim story sounds odd, but Road Out of Winter is also well-written, compelling, and hopeful – it would be an excellent book club selection.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
ALISON STINE lives in the rural Appalachian foothills. A recipient of an Individual Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), she was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. She has written for The Atlantic, The Nation, The Guardian, and many others. She is a contributing editor with the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.