An Examination of Motherhood in this Compelling CliFi Novel

In Diane Cook’s The New Wilderness, Bea experiences internal conflicts as a mother through her relationship with Agnes, as well as her relationship with her own mother. Throughout the story, Bea is conflicted about whether it is safe for her to bring Agnes back to the city, or if she herself even wants to take the responsibilities of a mother expected by the urban society she comes from. Bea wonders where and if she will ever find happiness and if Agnes and Glen even belong in that happiness. Often, she thinks about leaving the wilderness and returning to the city, but she also understands her responsibility as a mother. When Bea finds out her mother died months earlier, Cook writes, “Bea’s heart stopped for a moment. Her burning cheeks turned icy. Leaning toward Agnes’s face, with cold emphasis, she pointed to her own thumping chest and repeated, ‘My mother is dead. Mine.’ There. She felt her grief crawl back into her own arms and was so warmed and comforted by it, she almost smiled. Her mother was back with her, safe, where she belonged” (133). When Bea can allow this reality in, she begins to enter a slight mania where all her thoughts and wonders begin to seem possible. Bea’s internal conflict now reaches a point where she leaves in a hurry and Cook cleverly fuels Bea’s ambivalence and has Bea resisting to look back at her husband and child. The possibility of returning to her old life and seizing happiness seems far more attainable now than ever, and she acts on this opportunity. The comfort of “what was” gives Bea an irreplaceable high that sparks her inner soul and drive for living.  

Kate and Andrew

This entry was posted in 2020 Booker Short List novels, Literature Circles aka #litcircles and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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