Tuesday, August 1, 2017

A mother and son drama

Fierce Kingdom

Gin Phillips

Publisher: Viking

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Joan and her four year old son are enjoying the last few minutes at the zoo before it closes. But on the way out, Joan hears gun fire and sees some very disturbing things near the exit. She does not know exactly what is happening but she knows people are dying. She and her son run for their lives and hide in an abandoned animal enclosure. For the next three hours, she will be fighting for her life and the life of her son. She will be making some difficult choices.

There is a lot of emotion in Fierce Kingdom which, related to the plot and theme, is one of the best titles this year. It is predominantly about what a mother would do for her child. Gin Phillips has her heart in this book. She writes about a situation which no one would want to be in. We learn much about Joan as she make tough decision and interacts with two other women who find themselves struggling to stay alive. While the situation is harrowing , it really isn't a psychological thriller as much as a psychological drama. The heart of this book is in the relationship between a mother and a young boy.

The problem with what transpired is that the author has chosen a suspenseful situation that calls for tense moments and smart well-timed decisions. This is where the novel falls down. It gets off to a good start yet bogs down in the middle as we get a lot of thoughts from the mother on what is happening but nothing much really happens. Finally, we get glimpses of the terrorists but when they show up they are neither realistic or interesting. Plus, there are just too many strange decisions that may serve to drive the tension but fail because they don't make sense. One example: Joan is worried the light of her cell phone will attract the killers. I kept thinking," then turn it off and wait until they are gone to use it." What does she do,? She tosses it away. It may haveincreases the sense of isolation but doesn't help to make the situation believable.

But at the end the plot is helped along when Joan meet two other women who are hiding. This picks up the level of tension and has a beautiful moment when one of the women recognizes the gunman. It is a nice turn and I wish there were more like it.

Overall, Fierce Kingdom is full of beautiful writing. Gin Phillips is certainly a writer worth noticing. But perhaps thriller related books are not her forte. Literary drama is and if this was solely a drama before family and taking risks, it might have been more fruitful. Read this for the emotional drama and you will be pleased, If you are reading for the suspenseful plot, perhaps maybe not. I do recommend it though for that wonderful writing and for its emotional pull.

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