Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller

 

20931897After I read the premise of this book, I knew that I would have to read it. I had to know; Why did he do it? How did they survive? What happened to make her come back?

In 1976, at the age of 8, Peggy’s father takes her far into the forest, and tells her the rest of the world has disappeared. They stay there together for 9 years. As a survivalist, Peggy’s father has been preparing for this a long time, but, until the end of the book, we don’t know what caused his decision to finally take off.

The story alternates between 1976 and 1985, which is the year Peggy finds her way back home. Peggy narrates the story, filling us in on her experiences in the forest, while telling us what it’s like for her to be home after all these years. This story is gripping, and it will haunt you for a while after it’s over. For Peggy and her family, it will never really be over.

I had no idea this wind-worn woman, creased and bag-eyed, standing outside her barn with her cow on a rope, would be the last person I would meet from the real world for another nine years. Perhaps if I had known, I would have clung to the folds of her skirt, hooked my fingers over the waistband of her apron and tucked my knees around one of her stout legs. Stuck fast, like a limpet or a Siamese twin, I would have been carried with her when she rose in the morning to milk the cow, or into her kitchen to stir the porridge. If I had known, I might never have let her go.

23269043I found it fascinating to read about their days in the forest together; what they had, what they used, what they made, what they did, what they ate, how they lived. Just the two of them day after day, Peggy believing that there was no one else left on earth, no where else to go. Until she meets Reuben.

The rhythm of our days cocooned me, reassured and comforted me. I slipped into it without thought, so that the life we lived – in an isolated cabin on a crust of land, with the rest of the world simply wiped away, like a damp cloth passed across a chalked blackboard – became my unquestioned normality.

In one amazing part of the book, Peggy’s father makes her a piano out of wood, for her to learn on. Peggy’s mother is a well-known piano player, but has never taught her to play. In the forest, Peggy’s father lovingly carves out the keys, weighting them perfectly, paying close attention to detail. He teaches her to play using the one set of sheet music they took from the house. The piano doesn’t make any sound, but Peggy practices for hours, imagining the music and singing along. Her obsession with it gives her something to focus on when things get tough or lonely.

One thing that fascinated me, and I wish there had been more time spent on it, was how Peggy and her father change over the nine years they are isolated from everyone else. It becomes increasingly obvious that her father is loosing his grip. I couldn’t help but wonder about how a young girl’s sense of reality would hold up in the same situation. Even though I started to suspect what was coming, it didn’t take away from the horror of it. The whole book is like a train crash that you can see coming, but you can’t stop watching.

22825631A few reviewers on Goodreads mention that they wish that the author had spent more time on the revelations at the end of the book, and I remember feeling the same thing, but after I thought about it for a while I came to the conclusion that it would probably take a whole book to follow up on all the ramifications. I think it was the right place to stop.

Claire Fuller’s blog and website.

I experienced the same kind of ‘book hangover’ that Steph describes in her review at Bella’s Bookshelves.

 

*I received an ARC of this book from the publisher, which does not affect the content of my review. The quotes provided in this review are from an Uncorrected Proof.

 

 

 

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45 thoughts on “Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller

    • Naomi says:

      That one’s my favourite, too. The copy I have, though, is the second one, which is also nice.
      It was a good book – I definitely recommend it!

  1. My Book Strings says:

    I’ve been curious about this book since I first read about it as well. So I am glad you enjoyed it. What a shock it must have been to suddenly see another human being. I’m looking forward to reading this.

    • Naomi says:

      This book really gives you something to think about – it would be pretty crazy to come out of isolation after all those years, especially after thinking the rest of the world was gone. And, what would it feel like to think that the rest of the world was gone, anyway? That would make everything so much worse. I hope you like it!

    • Naomi says:

      It really did live up to all the good things I’ve heard about it so far. And, a bit different from the books I’ve been reading lately. Have fun reading it!

  2. Steph says:

    Still my favourite book of the year! 🙂 Thank you for sharing my review, Naomi! I actually just wrote here what I loved about something you mentioned but then realized it was a spoiler! Ha! Deleted. 🙂

    • Naomi says:

      It’s so hard to talk about it without spoiling it for people, isn’t it? But, it’s a good book for discussion. Maybe later, after everyone has read it. 🙂

    • Naomi says:

      No, but I just looked it up, and you’re right, same idea of taking the family into isolation from the world. But, from what I read of the reviews (which far from qualifies me as an expert on this book, I realize), I think Our Endless Numbered Days sounds better. It sounds like The Mosquito Coast made a lot of people mad. After reading OEND, I felt more haunted than mad. What did you think of The Mosquito Coast?

      • whatmeread says:

        I read it a long, long time ago. I don’t know why it made people mad. It was about a crazed survivalist father who first isolates his family in the states and makes them believe the U.S. is going to be destroyed and then takes them off to Central America to live in the jungle, them all the while believing that the U.S. got destroyed.

      • Naomi says:

        They seem to be angry at the Father, the one who took his family into isolation. They’re not all mad in a bad way – some of them loved it. But, a couple gave very low ratings, because the Father made them so mad. Goodreads reviews can be very entertaining.

  3. Lynn says:

    I love your review, Naomi! You really build suspense! However, it sounds a bit too creepy for me. (I’m a wuss!) Or perhaps that’s just because I just finished reading The Girl on the Train! Anyway I’ll let others read this one, I think. But still loved your review!

    • Naomi says:

      Thanks, Lynn! It’s a quiet sort of creepiness, almost as though you don’t notice it’s there until it’s really there. I think it would be fine for most people, though. Was The Girl on the Train creepy,?

  4. lonesomereadereric says:

    Great to read your response to this book. I hadn’t thought about it until reading your review, but yes I would have liked to see more descriptions of how both Peggy and her father changed over the time. I remember thinking this while reading it when large periods of time – months and years – were brushed over, but I guess it was a necessity given it’d make the book extend into hundreds of pages to linger on month by month developments. And she does give some vivid descriptions of the physical decline and near-starvation of both father and daughter. I think the characters and situation were so strong it naturally makes us want to know more about them.

    • Naomi says:

      Agreed. I think this is also why we want to follow up with them at the end, see how things play out. But, that would take up another couple of hundred pages. 🙂 The fact that we want to know so much more is a good sign that it’s a good, well-written book that has the power to make us think and feel. Thanks for commenting!

  5. Claire 'Word by Word' says:

    I think she did a great job of traversing the years while making the time pass quickly and it certainly wasn’t repetitive, I thought it was well done the way we are infused with tension right from the start, we trust no one and are waiting to see what will unfold and wondering how she is while narrating the story quite lucidly, but knowing that her mother is unsure about leaving her on her own in the present day, it fires the imagination of the reader in so many ways, and we must patiently turn the pages to find out what the author will reveal. Most thought provoking indeed, and we haven’t any started talking about the music!

    • Naomi says:

      Well put, Claire! It’s true that we don’t trust anyone, not even Ute. I felt like I had no idea what to expect, even though I did have a bit of an idea of what to expect from reading the synopsis. Even though I had no reason not to trust Ute, it seemed strange to me that she wouldn’t teach her daughter how to play the piano. That threw me off. And, you’re right, even though Peggy seems lucid as a narrator, we are on our guard the whole time for something to reveal itself.

      • Claire 'Word by Word' says:

        Yes, I also noted that Ute left for a piano concert in Germany without telling her daughter or saying goodbye which on the hand was bizarre though on the other, gave the perfect opportunity for her father to make up any story. Clearly that mistake came back to haunt her, not just in terms of what happened but how she was treated by the police, i.e. as a suspect initially herself.

      • Naomi says:

        I had forgotten about that. That seemed strange to me, too. I know I couldn’t leave my own kids without saying good-bye. So, it was another reason to wonder about her.

  6. ebookclassics says:

    I just finished the book! I feel the same as you about the ending. I understand keeping it a little vague because you have to end it somewhere, but I would have liked more details.

    • Naomi says:

      I really thought about this one for a while after it ended. I want to know what’s going to happen next with everyone. Looking forward to your thoughts on it!

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