Book Review: Notes From My Captivity
By: Kathy Parks
Published By: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Date: July 10, 2018
Page Count: 352
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via Edelweiss
Young Adult - Contemporary
This novel was not at all what I was expecting, but it ended up being so much more than I could have predicted. Think of this one as Hatchet for the technology generation with a more exotic location.
Adrienne Cahill has been dealing with the grief of losing her father since he was ten years old. Her mother has moved onto a new marriage with Dan, an anthropology professor who brought his teenage son along, but Adrienne still clings to the past version of her family - always keeping Dan at bay even though he views her as his daughter. She uses Dan's desire to please her to convince him to take her along on a research trip in Siberia. Adrienne's mother is less than pleased about the journey, but she knows that both Dan and Adrienne have stories to write and this trip could make or break their futures. Dan is intent on locating the Osinovs, an eccentric family that supposedly left Moscow under the cover of darkness to live in the solitude of Siberia. The existence of the family has been long debated, but Dan believes firmly that they do exist and this is the trip where he will finally make contact. Adrienne is intent on writing about the folly of Dan's venture as she believes the entire story is only fanciful imaginings. She hopes her story of the wild goose chase will be enough to land her a scholarship to study journalism at Emory.
The story focuses on three main segments of Adrienne's journey: the expedition, surviving in the Siberian wilderness, and her attempts to get home. I won't talk too much about the plot points to keep this review spoiler free, but the tension in this novel started from the ride to the airport and grew with every chapter until it hit a fever pitch that made me desperate to get to the end.
The Siberian setting was perfect for this novel and became a character of sorts. It's a harsh landscape full of danger from the weather, terrain, and wildlife. I would never want to experience the terror that Adrienne does when she realizes that she will have to survive in this desperate place. She morphed from being a spoiled teenager reliant on modern conveniences to a fearful girl in a strange land unable to communicate and forced to learn to cope with whatever the land provided.
It's not a secret that Adrienne will meet up with the Osinovs at some point as the synopsis clearly gives that gem away. I found the family to be intriguing and their way of life was baffling to someone like me. I can't imagine carving out a life in such a location, but you have to admire their tenacity.
Siberia is also the place where mystical things seem possible as its so remote and wild. There are elements of magical realism that pop in this novel from time to time. I loved these moments and trying to flesh out if they were real or just fevered imaginings of a desperate girl.
As I sit here typing on my laptop, I am so thankful for modern technology and the comfort it affords me, but there is also something to be said for a more simplistic approach to life. It makes me want to go camping (in a non-Siberia location) and spend time creating memories with my family. At the end of the day, family and love is what makes life worth living - not the newest gadget.
One Last Gripe: I was not a fan of Adrienne in the beginning which made me worry that I wouldn't enjoy the novel, but I kept with it and my opinion of her evolved over the course of the novel.
Favorite Thing About This Book: The setting
First Sentence: Grigor and Nika Osinov were young University professionals when they vanished from Moscow in 1987.
Favorite Character: Vanya
Least Favorite Character: Sergei
Adrienne Cahill cares about three things: getting into a great college; becoming a revered journalist like her idol, Sydney Declay; and making her late father proud of her.
So when Adrienne is offered the chance to write an article that will get her into her dream school and debunk her foolish stepfather's belief that a legendary family of hermits is living in the Siberian wilderness, there's no question that she's going to fly across the world.
But the Russian terrain is even less forgiving than skeptical Adrienne, and when disaster strikes, none of their extensive preparations seem to matter. Now Adrienne's being held captive by the family she was convinced didn't exist, and her best hope for escape is to act like she cares about them, even if it means wooing the youngest son.