This is one of those books where you’re certain going into it that you know what you’re getting yourself into, but then you learn you had no idea. An isolated cabin in the woods inhabited by a family whose respite is interrupted by a group of strangers with possible mayhem in mind. That’s been done before, right? I’ve seen the movies.
What if the strangers tell the family that the choices they make in that cabin have the power to press pause on the apocalypse or set it in motion?! Now you’re talking!
In this book you’ll learn who the family are as individuals and how their family dynamics work both before and during the invasion. Invited inside their heads, you’ll hear their thoughts as their lives are turned upside down and you’ll be given access to some of their most treasured and painful memories.
This is a loving and loveable family consisting of two doting dads and their adorable adopted daughter. I loved them all. It would have been so much easier if just one of them were the slightest bit irritating … but they’re not.
So, what about the invaders? Sorry, but all things considered I liked them too. I tried my hardest to demonise them but failed miserably. Whether you believe what they say or not, I believed that they believed it. From that perspective, scary as it sounds, it made sense to me where they were coming from. Much like our gorgeous couple, I went back and forth between not believing the people who had disrupted their peaceful lives and wondering if maybe they were actually telling the truth.
This is not a casual read and if you’re going through a stressful time in your life you may want to put this book on hold until your stress event has faded somewhat. It’s a testament to Paul Tremblay that his writing stressed me out so much. I kept getting this image of my life being this red stress ball at the time and reading this book felt like adding sharp metal spikes to it.
The Cabin at the End of the World may not have had as big an impact if my life had been floating on a calm lake while reading but I still think the constant tension, suspense and paranoia was always going to raise my blood pressure. I read some of this book in a doctor’s waiting room and at the beginning of my appointment my blood pressure was 132/100. Coincidence? You can decide for yourself after you read it!
I adore the way that Paul writes. I connected to his characters and felt like I was immersed in what was happening inside that cabin. I felt engaged the whole time and I was invested in the outcome of every character. I’m not quite sure how Paul did this but there were scenes where I had to pause and marvel at the beauty of sentences describing brutality. It doesn’t seem like the two should go together but they did here.
The pacing feels practically frenetic at times and I can’t see the story working as well any other way. You get to catch your breath when the characters do. Overall though, the stress of the situation doesn’t ease for the characters so it doesn’t ease for the reader either.
I expect some readers will be uneasy and maybe even cranky about some unanswered questions. While I would certainly read with interest a Q&A with the author I thought the book finished exactly where it should have and I’m okay with the unanswered questions. Throughout the book you’re only privy to information as it’s explained to the characters so it felt perfect to me how it ended.
My Nerd is Showing: I really appreciated the synchronicity between the number of grasshoppers Wen catches at the beginning of the book and the number of people that wind up in the cabin. I also picked up on some really interesting (to me) correlations between that and other numbers that pop up in the book and what those numbers are said to represent from a Biblical perspective. [Yes, I have a bazillion years of Bible College behind me. No, I won’t go all ooky spooky super spiritual on you and bore you with the Bible number meaning thing. You’re welcome!]
I wondered throughout the book if the specific numbers were intentional or not and wavered between thinking they had to be deliberate and thinking I was reading too much into something that meant nothing. Naturally after finishing the book I read the author’s bio. Upon discovering that Paul has a master’s degree in mathematics a nerdy smile may have escaped. Now I really want to believe the numbers were deliberate. 🤓
Favourite Phrase: “brain-bashed proto-zombie” … Seriously, how awesome is that word combo?!
The Bottom Line: I need to read every single thing Paul has or will ever write. I want to ramble on and on about all of the parts of this book that either surprised me, had me wanting to bite my nails or melted chunks off my icy heart but I won’t because
I’m mean like that I don’t want to ruin your reading experience by getting into spoiler territory.
Content warnings include gory violence, home invasion, flashbacks and discussion of a homophobic hate crime, and scenes that may cause your blood pressure to rise.
Thank you so much to Edelweiss and William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, for the opportunity to read this book and discover a new favourite author in the process.
Once Upon a Blurb
Seven-year-old Wen and her parents, Eric and Andrew, are vacationing at a remote cabin on a quiet New Hampshire lake. Their closest neighbours are more than two miles in either direction along a rutted dirt road.
One afternoon, as Wen catches grasshoppers in the front yard, a stranger unexpectedly appears in the driveway. Leonard is the largest man Wen has ever seen but he is young, friendly, and he wins her over almost instantly. Leonard and Wen talk and play until Leonard abruptly apologises and tells Wen, “None of what’s going to happen is your fault”. Three more strangers then arrive at the cabin carrying unidentifiable, menacing objects. As Wen sprints inside to warn her parents, Leonard calls out: “Your dads won’t want to let us in, Wen. But they have to. We need your help to save the world.”
Thus begins an unbearably tense, gripping tale of paranoia, sacrifice, apocalypse, and survival that escalates to a shattering conclusion, one in which the fate of a loving family and quite possibly all of humanity are entwined. The Cabin at the End of the World is a masterpiece of terror and suspense from the fantastically fertile imagination of Paul Tremblay.