I read Claire Fuller’s most recent novel, Swimming Lessons, (review here) last year and was intrigued enough by her writing to seek out her previous book at the local library. I’m glad I did because I actually liked Our Endless Numbered Days quite a bit more than I liked Swimming Lessons. A book part of that is the style of this story – I tend to not enjoy letter-style novels such as Swimming Lessons. At the same time, I simply found the story of Our Endless Numbered Days more fascinating.
Peggy is eight years old when her survivalist father tells her that the world has ended. He takes her deep into the forest, to an abandoned hut, where they begin their new life. She believes his stories of the destruction of the rest of the world, of the death of her mother. Being a child, she has little recourse but to trust him and rely on him, even as he demonstrates himself to be increasingly unstable.
The story is mostly about Peggy’s time with her father, James, but interspersed chapters show her as a seventeen-year-old, returned to the world and her mother. In these chapters we witness Peggy struggle to adjust to normal life and we are unsure how she returned and where James is.
Fuller does a great job of not romanticizing what is essentially a kidnapping story. This is no idyllic back-to-nature tale. James is ill-equipped to survive and the two are constantly on the brink of starvation. Without going overboard, Fuller shows us the dirt and discomfort such a life would entail. Knowing that Peggy does eventually escape kept me wanting to read more, wanting to find out how and when. The “twist” that comes at the end seemed obvious to me and a little heavy-handed but I can see what Fuller was going for and, overall, it doesn’t weaken the novel.
7 thoughts on “Book Review: Our Endless Numbered Days – Claire Fuller”
I really liked this book too-probably a bit more than swimming lessons as well
Oh, god, it’s a creepy cult story without the cult! Did this book have a rather dark tone like a thriller novel, or is the father mentally ill in a realistic way?
It’s a bit of both. It definitely has a dark tone and the father is clearly mentally ill. (Not sure how realistic it is since he takes it to the extreme of pretending the world ends!) But the narrator is clearly deeply traumatized by her experience and her entire adolescence has been upended so she doesn’t necessarily realize how messed up things are. It’s creepy in the way tales of abuse are creepy, rather than murder story creepy, if that makes sense?
It does. I know a few people in real life who were raised by mentally ill parents, and that has deeply affected them for life. It’s changed how they respond to situations and the way they see the world.
Exactly! I think Fuller does a good job of portraying that, plus the effect of complete isolation on a young girl.
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[…] read two previous books by Claire Fuller – Our Endless Numbered Days and Swimming Lessons – I see a lot of the same themes here in The Memory of Animals. Like her […]