Amy is a young girl who has grown up in the Clearing with her family. She will do anything to please her mother, who has great plans for Amy and her brothers and sisters. But when Amy’s new sister joins their special family, her protestations and resistance cause Amy to question everything she has been taught about the outside world. Who can she trust when her own family encourages acts of depravity and violence?
Freya and her son, Billy, live in the bush in a home installed with electric roller shutters and panic buttons. Freya is paranoid that someone is watching her and plotting to abduct her son. It soon becomes clear that Freya was right to be afraid – Billy has gone missing. But who took him? Her ex? A dangerous man from her past? Or could Freya herself be somehow responsible?
Eventually Amy and Freya will unite but it won’t be in the way that you expected. From the chilling first chapter where Amy and her family plot to kidnap a young girl (their new ‘sister’), the story alternates between both viewpoints, and uses excerpts from Amy’s journal to describe horrific episodes of life within the Clearing. They are both unreliable narrators – Freya openly tells the reader that she has learned to wear a mask to appear normal, and Amy is battling what she calls ‘deviant thoughts’. As the novel progresses, we learn more about the secrets they’re hiding, and wonder if what they tell us about themselves and other characters is the truth.
Just like his debut bestseller Call Me Evie, J.P. Pomare has again written a story that will have you scratching your head, demanding to know “what on earth is going on here?” The answer to that question will have you turning page after page after page. A significant reveal occurs around the midpoint that will cause you to re-think everything you’ve just read, and then the twists continue until the very end – just when you think it’s safe to take your hand off the panic switch.
J.P. Pomare has a polished writing style – every sentence feels like it’s been carefully constructed and considered, but without leaving the reader feeling bogged down in description. In the Clearing is an all-consuming read that explores the sinister goings-on of life within a cult, using themes of paranoia, identity, manipulation, loyalty, trust, forgiveness, control and fear to create a truly dark and chilling tale – made even more so by the fact that the events were inspired by a true story.
In the Clearing by J.P. Pomare is published by Hachette.
I have a meanness in me, something black and rotten that swells like a lymph node. That’s how I imagine it, as a growth you could cut out.