In the Clearing by J. P. Pomare
Hachette, 2020. ISBN: 9781869713393.
Recommended for adults. J. P. Pomare delivers a taut psychological thriller loosely based on the Victorian Family Cult which controlled its followers through brainwashing and subjected the children to abuse.
Told in two voices, teenager Amy who lives in the Clearing, totally dominated by the Elders and adult Freya who lives with her son Billy in a safe house, scared of the outside world. The author builds a tightly controlled plot, leaving little breadcrumbs - times, dates, family structure, even chapter headings, be very aware as Freya's and Amy's stories take you on an emotional journey.
Security is key in Freya's world, she's escaped from an horrific upbringing and taken refuge in an isolated farmhouse, protected by her guard dog Rocky. Shutters, a security system, panic buttons and a fire bunker, all assist Freya in her bid to be safe and protected. When bunches of flowers are left on her doorstep and strangers are seen at her swimming hole, Freya's anxiety levels build, her paranoia grows, and she feels a sense of deja vu. Her first son Aspen was kidnapped, and she is over-vigilant in protecting Billy.
Amy's diary entries chronicle the deprivation, the rigid control, the brainwashing and terror she experiences in The Clearing. The chosen children are starved, forced to hide in The Hole when strangers visit, have their sleep controlled and suffer cruel punishments. Amy believes that outsiders are blue devils and she must remain true to Adrienne their leader. When new girl Asha who was kidnapped on her way home from school, tells of her life on the outside, Amy begins to question her life and the world outside.
In the Clearing is filled with twists and turns, at times very graphic and confronting, skilfully written, even frightening at times. Pomare's tension-building plot, his separate yet interconnected storylines and explosive conclusion, make this a powerful psychological suspense novel. Themes: Psychological thriller, Cults - Australia, Missing Persons, Secrecy.