The weather patterns across the world are getting more extreme each year. Soon, it will be the most brutally cold winter we’ve ever experienced. An Ice Age. Those who are attempting to survive in the new weather extremes will be looking to take help in whatever form they can in The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan.
In the year 2020, the world is freezing over and snow blankets the landscape. No where on Earth is safe from the dropping temperatures. In the mountainous Scottish Highlands, Dylan, a former cinema owner from London who has traveled north on a posthumous wish of his mother and grandmother, meets Constance and her daughter Stella in the caravan park where Dylan’s new home is. As they get to know one another and the weather gets worse, their lives are brought much closer together out of necessity for survival, but in a way greater than they ever imagined they would be. And with sunlight becoming a rare commodity in this exaggerated, extended winter, they each learn to value light, and each other, in new ways.
With crisp writing that bites and sticks with you as much as a brutal winter does, the story is rather captivating to read on a character-driven level. The way that dialogue was distinguished from attributing text or narration was a bit strange from what I’m accustomed to, but I could see how it could possibly be used to play into the mindset of the characters who have been forced to deal with extreme winter conditions for an extended period of time–quick and to the point. I appreciate how the aspect of Stella’s being transgender was handled throughout the text, both the highs and the lows of how others in her life, as well as Stella herself, view her transition. I enjoyed how the narrative helps to show that even though the world is slowly trying to wipe the slate clean that it doesn’t erase the social problems that people face.
Overall, I’d give it a 4 out of 5 stars.