cover image The Sunlight Pilgrims

The Sunlight Pilgrims

Jenni Fagan. Random/Hogarth, $26 (320p) ISBN 978-0-553-41887-3

It’s 2020, and the coldest, harshest winter in 200 years is about to pummel the United States and Europe. In London, Dylan MacRae closes his family’s deeply-in-debt boutique cinema for the final time, and, carrying the ashes of his recently deceased mother and grandmother with him, he heads north to a small caravan park in Clachan Fells. His mother left him a caravan home there, and he plans to stay until springtime, when he can spread her and his grandmother’s ashes further north. Upon arrival, Dylan quickly befriends Stella, a 12-year-old trans girl, and her mother, Constance, a furniture refinisher, who live next door. Together, the trio becomes a tight unit to face the oncoming wintery devastation. Dylan and Constance begin a romance, and Stella struggles with schoolyard bullying, as well as her oncoming puberty. Fagan (The Panopticon) once more employs a heightened version of reality—in her debut, it was high-security juvenile detention; here, it’s a second Ice Age—to set in motion a series of small, intimate narratives. Characters devote long stretches to exploring the world, making gin, and rolling snowmen. Though not as gripping as her previous effort, Fagan has still constructed a vivid story. (July)