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September 11, 2020

Road Out of Winter by Alison Stine ~ a Review

by MK French

Wylodine grew up poor and paranoid, as her family grew marijuana. Winters grew longer and longer, and she wants to restart. The way there in the extreme cold is dangerous, even with a group of exiles going with her. A cult leader is after them for Wil's ability to grow plants, especially necessary as winter continues to drag on.
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Road Out of Winter
September 2020; MIRA; 978-0778309925
audio, ebook, print (320 pages); dystopian

Wil starts put alone in her family's farm, as her mother and mother's boyfriend had already left the year before for California. She sold the weed on her own but spent all her time caretaking for the farm and remaining plants. As a result, she didn't even know things were getting as bad as it had gotten outside. She has a kinder heart than she gives herself credit for, which is why she takes on the other "exiles" of the summary. They want to go with her as she tries to head to California, which everyone feels is more of a pipe dream given the dwindling supplies and gasoline. No one knows why it had gotten so cold as they struggled to survive, so we never actually know why it happens.

We see different groups banding together as they struggle to survive the cold. Some join up behind a charismatic leader and perpetuate violence on those weaker than themselves. Others will band together under the name of religion and perpetuate a different kind of patriarchy. There is even a group that feels the cold is the end of the world and want to die together. Wil doesn't want anything to do with these groups and wants to keep pushing westward. With her sense of fairness in spite of the paranoia she was raised with, she would rather bring the helpless with her. She's certain that it's the young mother she has with her that is the target of stalking, but of course, it's because she's known as the grower and she's the actual target. This is outright stated toward the end of the book, after there were all kinds of losses and struggles to continue through twisting and snowed out backroads.

Wil's character arc is complete, but there are so many questions still left unanswered for me. I was enthralled by the journey the characters all take together, as it's not an easy one and there are all kinds of ethical choices that they have to make, whether they realize it or not. What dream is worth moving forward to? What is civilization as it freezes? There are no neat or easy answers, and I hope that they all survive the winter after the close of the story.

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Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever. 

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  1. This book sounds good! I am absolutely going to check this out.