Review: “The Cabin at the End of the World,” Paul Tremblay

Pros: This story broke my brain
Cons: Truly bizarre perspective/PoV switching
Rating: 5 out of 5

Paul Tremblay’s The Cabin at the End of the World: A Novel introduces us to little girl Wen and her Daddy Eric and Daddy Andrew. They’re taking a vacation in the wilds of New Hampshire–no cell phone service where they’ve gone! Wen is catching grasshoppers on the front lawn when she’s approached by gentle giant Leonard, who seems both friendly and oddly regretful. As she starts to worry and think that she should go find her daddies, three more people join him. Obviously the three vacationers aren’t going to let a group of oddly-armed men and women just waltz into their home, even when the intruders say they just have to talk to them. But it doesn’t take long for the four newcomers to break in. The catch is–they truly don’t want to harm Wen, Eric, and Andrew. They want the three of them to choose one of themselves for sacrifice, and to carry out that sacrifice themselves. Otherwise, say Leonard and his acquaintances: the world will end.

Oh wow. Where do I even start. Normally I like more action-oriented fiction, but if an author is good enough they can hold my attention without that. Boy howdy is Paul Tremblay good enough. This is very close to being a one-room story, and those are hard to do well. The setup is also something that beggars belief: I found myself thinking, of course the intruders aren’t going to be able to convince the vacationers of anything; this is going to be awfully predictable. Yet it still managed to hold me close, surprise me, and leave me on the edge of my seat. There is blood and violence and death, very close and visceral, so if that isn’t for you, well, this book isn’t for you.

The perspective and point of view weirded me out and confused me, particularly at first. The narrative is written in the present tense, which I typically find very awkward in fiction. There’s even a section from Andrew and Eric’s points-of-view, where each is referred to by name or by “he/him” individually and yet “we” together. Somehow it kinda works here, although in general I really wouldn’t recommend it as a technique. Again, you need to be a hell of a good author, and clearly Tremblay is.

Please do keep in mind that this is not a story that wraps everything up in a neat little bow. If you need everything explained thoroughly and you need every nuance of the ending dealt with, you won’t get that here. I saw some reviews complaining about this, so I figured I should warn you away if you’re that type of reader. This book certainly won’t be for everyone, but if you’re the right reader, it’s breathtaking.

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