Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

"That is what you do when you have a child, isn't it, open yourself up to unimaginable pain and then try to pretend away the possibilities."

I finished reading this novel last week on February 13th. I was prepared to write a review the next morning and get it posted by that night, but another story took over my consciousness instead. After the horrific shooting in Parkland, I couldn't bring myself to write a review of a book about a mass shooting. The fiction was just too close to the real world for me to understand. These things are only supposed to happen in books. Almost a week later, I've finally been able to gather my thoughts enough to share them with you.

Joan has found the perfect spot at the local zoo for her and her four-year-old son Lincoln to relax. The little corner is just off the path enough for them to enjoy their afternoon uninterrupted by the other visitors. Their trips to this exact spot have become a ritual that allows Joan to relish her time with Lincoln, time that she knows won't last forever. He's simply growing up too fast. But for now at least, everything is perfect. Joan patiently coaxes her son to gather his things in preparation for the closing of the zoo. They only have a few more minutes to travel across the park before the gates are locked. That's when she hears the loud bursts of sound echo through the trees.

Unalarmed at first, mother and child make their way toward the exit. They are jolted to a stop when Joan notices the motionless body lying in the pathway. Further down, she spots a man sporting a rifle, and all the pieces fall into place for her. Joan desperately searches for a place to hide. Ironically, the little piece of paradise that has always brought joy to her and Lincoln has become the place of nightmares. She settles on an abandoned exhibit, hiding behind the rocky landscape of the enclosure. As the book progresses, she continues to navigate the situation through tense and terrifying moments of life and death.

Much of the criticism I've seen of this novel focuses on the perceived implausibility of Joan's actions. Frankly, I was never aware of this until reading reviews. Author Gin Phillips immediately captured my attention and held it through each tense moment. Beyond the suspense, Phillips tells of a beautiful and intimate relationship between mother and child. Through flashbacks and internal thoughts of Joan, we learn the little details of her relationship with Lincoln, a relationship that brings authenticity to both characters. Fierce Kingdom is a brilliant novel of suspense that also managed to capture my heart with an honest portrayal of mother and child. The horrific details of the news coming out of Florida has made this story all the more real to me. The heartache, anger, and passion that Joan displays within the pages of the novel mirrors the real life agony of all those affected by gun violence. Phillips also provides a larger message for those tragedies. By placing the love between mother and child in the middle of the horrors of the shooting, she reminds us that the world is not all bad. "There are beautiful things. Pay attention."

For more information, visit the author's website, Amazon, and Goodreads.

(2018, 7)

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4 Responses to “Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips”

  1. Oh my goodness, I hadn't heard of this book, but I'm sure it was heavy on your heart with the Parkland shooting news! A similar thing happened to me. The book "The Good Daughter" was on hold at the library for me, and it arrived in my Kindle books last week. I finally started reading it on Friday...had no idea it was based around a school shooting. Hard to read, for sure!

    1. It is definitely tough to digest given these tragic events. I remember being equally affected when I read The Good Daughter last year. But I also remember really enjoying it. Did you get a chance to read the prequel novella to that one?

  2. *Crying* Parkland is heartbreaking. I am glad you were able to glean something positive from this book. I struggle with violence in books, but like that the author used it as an impetus to explore the relationship between mother and child.

    1. This fiction was definitely harder to digest given everything going on in the real world. Still, the author had a beautiful message of finding the good things that can come out of a tragedy. I'd argue the students of Parkland are doing their part to make that happen!


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