WILDLAND by Rebecca Hodge is an outstanding debut.

It’s a story of courage and humanity; of ordinary people battling extraordinary circumstances; of the scars we carry—seen and unseen; of what it means to be a parent.

And one of the main characters is a forest fire.

Kat, the heroine, is a widow, a mother, and a survivor facing a second battle with breast cancer. This time around, she has an impossible decision to make: Fight or surrender? When the novel opens, she’s retreated to a remote cottage in the Blue Ridge Mountains to consider her options. Her veterinarian daughter begrudgingly agrees to respect her mother’s need for solitude, but insists on leaving her with a stray dog in need of TLC.

Further down the secluded mountain road, two other cottages are rented out. A divorced computer programmer, Scott, is in one with his teen daughter, Lily. Lily would rather be in a city with cell phone service than wondering why her father thinks they should spend a month hiking. In the other cottage, the soft-spoken ex-special forces Malcolm is trying to build a new life with his adopted 9-year-old son, Nirav, away from horrors they have both witnessed.

When the two children discover Kat and her dog—plus another stray—Kat finds herself hosting a sleepover. But after lightning starts a fire in the drought-stricken undergrowth near her cottage, she and the children become trapped. Their only hope of survival is to head up the mountain on foot, while the two fathers race to rescue them in a private helicopter commandeered by Malcolm.

The men are nothing alike: Malcolm is calm and in control; Scott makes terrible decisions and easily panics. But they have to work together as the fire thwarts them at every turn. Down on the ground, Kat discovers strength and ingenuity she never imagined she possessed. With the sky literally raining fire, she will risk everything to save the two kids, even as she remains uncertain of her own destiny.

I loved every sentence, every adrenaline-pumping plot twist, every character.

 

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