June 4, 2018

Book Review: What Should Be Wild by Julia Fine


Cursed. Maisie Cothay has never known the feel of human flesh: born with the power to kill or resurrect at her slightest touch, she has spent her childhood sequestered in her family’s manor at the edge of a mysterious forest. Maisie’s father, an anthropologist who sees her as more experiment than daughter, has warned Maisie not to venture into the wood. Locals talk of men disappearing within, emerging with addled minds and strange stories. What he does not tell Maisie is that for over a millennium her female ancestors have also vanished into the wood, never to emerge—for she is descended from a long line of cursed women.

But one day Maisie’s father disappears, and Maisie must venture beyond the walls of her carefully constructed life to find him. Away from her home and the wood for the very first time, she encounters a strange world filled with wonder and deception. Yet the farther she strays, the more the wood calls her home. For only there can Maisie finally reckon with her power and come to understand the wildest parts of herself.

"They grew me inside my mother, which was unusual because she was dead." - Don't even try resisting this book with a first line like that. 

Maisie kills her mother while still her womb because she has the power to kill - and revive - with a touch of her hand.  Somehow, she survives in her dead mother's womb and is delivered to a life where her protective father and housekeeper keep her sequestered from the world in the family estate called Urizon.  She grows up without being hugged or kissed or touched at all.  Her power is such that she can even make inanimate objects, such as wood floors, come alive. It turns out the Maisie is one in a long line of women who are "cursed" with supernatural gifts that have somewhat to do with the mysterious wood near Urizon. 

The narrative alternates between Maisie's story and that of the other women in her family throughout the ages who have been afflicted. I was more drawn to these other storylines and felt a shock every time the narrative switched back to the present. The overall theme linking the past and Maisie is one of magic intertwined with female sexuality and oppression. Somehow the wood, where the women disappear into is at once menacing and a safe space - where they live in immortality. What Should Be Wild has a strange atmosphere that drew me in immediately.  I took my time in this world and although some of the revelations were unexpected, the novel was an overall satisfying experience.  

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