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Novel Review: The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay

The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay
Adult ∴ Horror ∴ Thriller ∴ LGBTQIA+ > Gay ∴ TW: Homophobia, hate crime, assault, violence, murder
Published June 26th 2018 by William Morrow
Hardback ∴ 288 pages

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Seven-year-old Wen and her parents, Eric and Andrew, are vacationing at a remote cabin on a quiet New Hampshire lake. Their closest neighbors 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 apologizes 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.

This book left me emotionally unstable for a while. To be perfectly honest, I was confused at the beginning. Not sure what this book wanted to be: a home invasion horror or an apocalyptic horror? It gave me The Strangers vibe for a while. A family, minding their own business on vacation in the middle of nowhere is invaded by a foursome of people with really weird, handmade weapons. But then the foursome tells the family that one of them must sacrifice themselves to prevent the apocalypse.

This wasn’t as “horror” as I was hoping, especially since one of his earlier novels A Head Full of Ghosts is so spooky and unsettling and also on the top of my list for favorite horror novels. This was very much a slow burn scary. I spent about half of the book in confusion, but it slowly started to become more and more clear.

Eric, Andrew, and their daughter Wen are vacationing at a cabin in the middle of no where. Wen is catching grasshoppers, thinking about being adopted and her cleft lip repair and how much she loves her dads, just kids stuff. Eric and Andrew are in the back yard reading and talking. Then a strange young man shows up and starts talking to Wen. Nothing sinister or threatening. He offers to help her catch grasshoppers. But then things take a weird turn. Three other individuals, a large man and two women, show up, carrying very strange handmade weapons made out of gardening tools. Wen runs inside and gets her dads, and they attempt to lock down.

Things just escalate after that. Throughout the whole book, the strangers try to convince the family that one of them has to choose to sacrifice themselves or the world is going to end. The question is, are the natural disasters happening in the world a coincidence or are they a result of not choosing a sacrifice? Truly, I don’t know.

I wasn’t sure how I was feeling about this book until I finished it. And I definitely like it a lot. If you decide to not finish it, you’re not getting the whole picture and you can’t experience it properly. I think this is definitely an all-or-nothing kind of book. Though I was confused in the beginning, in hindsight, the whole thing makes sense. There is a nice ambiguous ending, and I enjoy those quite a lot, because it gives me thinking room. I get to make up what happens after up for myself. It’s like a private little fanfic.

As a whole, I very much enjoyed this book. It had a couple of really significant twists that shocked me. I even had to back up about 15-20 pages to make sure I read it all and didn’t miss anything. I think that’s the only downfall of the book. There are parts that make you question if you missed an important exchange, but you didn’t and it just *went there* all on it’s own.

∴ 4 stars ∴

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