Resin by Ane Riel was definitely my favourite January read. It drew me in quietly and by the end I was simultaneously anxious to know the conclusion and sad that it would all be over.
Liv died when she was just six years old.
Her father knew he was the only one who could keep her safe in this world. So one evening he left the isolated house his little family called home, he pushed their boat out to sea and watched it ruin on the rocks. Then he walked the long way into town to report his only child missing.
But behind the boxes and the baskets crowding her Dad’s workshop, Liv was hiding. This way her Dad had said, she’d never have to go to school; this way, she’d never have to leave her parents.
This way, Liv would be safe.
Resin is primarily narrated by Liv, a young girl of around seven, and the prose in these sections holds a childlike quality. It’s punctuated by short sentences and a matter-of-fact tone, and is flavoured by Liv’s endearing belief that everything her father tells her is true. Sometimes her abrupt honesty is heart-wrenching and I wanted to get inside the book, bundle her up and give her a little TLC. These chapters are interspersed with letters from her mother, fragments of backstory about Liv’s family and, later, a couple of other characters.
Within the narrative, Riel deals with some weighty issues, particularly with regards to bereavement. One of the novel’s primary concerns is how loss affects individuals differently, and her carefully crafted characterisation helps to convey this in a very believable manner.
The tale is set on an island, with the family living in relative seclusion. Riel’s descriptions of the landscape are often vivid, and as someone who particularly appreciates a strong sense of place I really enjoyed this aspect of the book.
The path curved and suddenly there was noticeably more space between the trees. The white must which had lain across the forest all day had slowly drifted south. At that moment the troll trees ended completely and left the scene to the afternoon sun, which lit up the forest floor, revealing a myriad of life: glossy beetles struggling across steaming grass mounds; insects dancing in the air between the tree trunks; a shrew’s ceaseless pottering between blades of grass. (Pg. 31)
Readers who liked Claire Fuller’s Our Endless Numbered Days or Gabriel Tallent’s My Absolute Darling will probably take well to this novel.