At a once vibrant communal-living property in the British countryside, back-to-basics fervor has given way to a vague discontent. A place that once buzzed with activity, from the polytunnels to the pottery shed, now functions with a skeleton crew. Founder Don Riley surveys his domain with the grim focus of someone who knows what’s best for everyone—and isn’t afraid to let them know. Especially when those people are related to him.
Don’s wife, Freya, can’t quite decide whether not liking someone anymore is enough reason to end a twenty-year marriage. So she decamps to a mud yurt in the woods to mull it over. Their seventeen-year-old daughter, Kate, enrolls in school for the first time in her life: the exotic new world of fellow teenagers and surprisingly tasty cafeteria food beckons, and she is quickly lured into the arms of a “meathead” classmate. In his sister’s absence, eleven-year-old Albert falls under the spell of an outlandish new visitor to the community who fills his head with strange notions of the impending end of the world.
Faced with the task of rescuing his son from apocalyptic fantasies, his daughter from the clutches of suburbia, and his wife from her increasingly apparent desire to leave him, Don convinces himself that the only way to save the world he’s created is . . . to throw the biggest party of his life. Will anyone show up?
From the acclaimed young author of Submarine, Wild Abandon is a strange and wonderful look at love—familial and romantic, returned and rebuffed—and the people and places we choose to call home.
In his semiamusing second novel, Dunthorne (Submarine) once again saddles children with problematic parents. Eleven-year-old Albert and 17-year-old Kate chafe under the attention of their father, Don, and mother, Freya, who have founded a self-sustaining commune called Blaen-y-Llyn in South Wales. Home-schooled Kate yearns to be normal and forces her parents to enroll her in the local school, while Albert, obsessed with end times, is actively planning for the apocalypse. Meanwhile, the shrinking community is falling apart; Freya is thinking about taking Albert and leaving Don; and Kate moves in with her boyfriend's middle-class family. As a last ditch attempt to hold everything together, Don throws a rave and invites the local townsfolk. Dunthorne proves himself an equal opportunity satirist of both neo-hippie and petit bourgeois pretensions: after suffering a nervous breakdown, commune cofounder Patrick has a difficult time readjusting to the outside world, and Kate's boyfriend's father seems to have an agenda for Kate. Dunthorne revels in all the indignities his back-to-the-land characters have to endure, even returning to the early '90s recession to dramatize the commune's founding. Yet the satire is disappointingly uneven, and the uniformly unpleasant characterizations leave a sour aftertaste.