Kirsty Logan 17 February 2012 - 10:20am
Shelter is a slow-burning novel, rich with atmosphere.
Sisters Maggie and Jenny enjoy a sheltered but fragile childhood in Duchess Creek, an isolated village in Northern Canada. 'Mr Safety', Maggie's dad, often takes her on camping trips out into the wilderness, where he teaches her how to build a lean-to and find food – just in case. Although her dad tries to prepare her for life, Maggie worries often about bad things happening to her family. But then the worst happens: her dad dies in an accident at work, and she must leave the family home with Jenny and her mother, Irene. The three of them spend a few blissful weeks together, and Maggie has no reason to think that this life cannot continue. When Irene drops the girls off at the cold, unwelcoming Edwards house, she promises that she will come back for them soon – but the weeks pass, and she does not return. Maggie soon realises that it's up to her to bring her family back together.
The Canadian landscape is as much a character as any of the others, beautifully described in Greenslade's prose. For the first few chapters the plot seems to jump back and forth and it's difficult to get a hold on what's happening, but the prose and imagery are both gorgeous enough to hold the attention. Once you fall in love with the characters, the slow pace will seem a blessing as it allows you to get to know them even better. Shelter may not be action-packed, but its characters and images will linger in your imagination long after the book is finished.