Wednesday, 15 January 2020

THE GREY SISTERS by Jo Treggiari. Review by Katherine Langrish.

Hello! Back in the early December rush, this review filled an unexpected gap. I alwways felt it deserved a full span of days, so here it is again - with a cover that matches the grey weather outside my window.

Today AWFULLY BIG REVIEWS once again welcomes the author Katherine Langrish as a Guest Reviewer, with her review of THE GREY SISTERS, an atmospheric, character-driven YA thriller by Canadian writer Jo Treggiari.

The Grey Sisters - By Jo Treggiari (Hardcover) : Target

D and Spider have always been friends, but became even more closely united in grief when a plane carrying both their siblings crashed on The Grey Sisters, a three-peaked mountain towering ruggedly from the Canadian backwoods. Two years on, D spots in a news photo her sister’s cuddly toy tucked into the pillow of the crash’s sole survivor, a flight attendant recently woken from coma. Spurred into action, she sets out with Spider and their friend Min to visit the crash site on The Grey Sisters and perhaps find closure. But there’s growing disquiet as the girls drive their unreliable old VW wagon past squalid settlements in the wild, unfriendly woods to reach the bleak mess of the crash site.
Once she’d trained her eyes to see through the tangled undergrowth [Min] caught glimpses of RVs tucked under the trees, a cluster of dilapidated houses no bigger than her parents’ goat shed and so derelict they seemed uninhabited, a few tiny shacks covered with tar-paper, which she guessed were outhouses, many abandoned sites strewn with bags of garbage, old refrigerators and wrecked cars. No one sitting on porches or working on their cars. She wondered if they were standing behind the curtains watching the VW go by.

…They almost missed it. At first glance it looked like another abandoned site, a dump of moldy papers and assorted garbage, but Min spied a thicket of wooden crosses marking the head of a dirt road leading through the trees. ‘Stop. Right here,’ she called. D pulled over and they got out.

It was a mess.

People had come here with their white candles and prayers and their tears, but now all that remained was what they’d left behind. Brightly coloured plastic flowers trodden into the dirt, photographs too rain-soaked to identify, pinwheels and lots of toys.
Without knowing it, the three girls are running into danger. The Grey Sisters is home to a survivalist, militarist cult called Avalon, run by a leader known as Big Daddy who keeps his people isolated and teaches them to prepare for the apocalypse. Women in the cult are either warriors or ‘cows’, used for breeding; babies are sold to buy guns. Ariel has lived in the cult all her life and distrusts outsiders, but desperate to save her friend Aaron who’s been savaged by a bear, she descends the mountain for help and encounters D, Min and Spider. Then the three newcomers pitch camp not far from Big Daddy’s compound – and Min disappears. Heart-stopping adventures ensue.
I read this book in a single sitting. It’s gritty, fast-paced, with a wonderful sense of place. Most of all I love the courage of its four resourceful, active heroines as they take on Big Daddy and his armed warriors, the brutish Uncles. 

 THE GREY SISTERS by Jo Treggiarri  is published  by Penguin Random House/Penguin Teen Canada 2019 . It is available from Thursday 5th December in hardcover (£14.99) and as an e-book from
Novels: The Troll Trilogy Katherine Langrish is the author of several notable childrens books, including the TROLL FELL trilogy.
She also writes wonderful posts about myths, fairytales and folklore in her own blog SEVEN MILES OF STEEL THISTLES:   https://steelthistles.blogspot

Her current post is  on the theme of the "Grey Sisters" in all their many appearances.
A selection of Katherine's earlier Steel Thistles articles, expanded, is available in print and e-book format from Amazon.


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