Eleutheria

Allegra Hyde. Vintage, $17 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-593-31524-8

Hyde chronicles the foibles of a would-be utopian movement led by climate change activists in her fiery and engrossing debut novel (after the collection Of This New World). Willa Marks is raised in the woods in New Hampshire by paranoid parents who fear the end is near, and grows up with a contrasting disposition. Ever the idealist, she believes “the planet... was not poised to betray us.” At 18, in Boston, Willa meets Sylvia Gill, a renowned Harvard professor whom she soon reveres but who spurns Willa. On the brink of losing hope, Willa comes across a book called Living the Solution, and learns it was written by the founder of Camp Hope, ground zero for “ecowarriors” on the island of Eleutheria in the Bahamas. With fantasies of gaining Sylvia’s approval, Willa flies there to join the movement, which for the moment is staying underground. She soon learns the public launch is delayed, Camp Hope’s leader is missing, and others find her an intrusion. But Willa insists on being accepted and strives to keep operations running, realizing too late the price of it all. Exquisite prose and keen insights into the limits of idealism and activism add to the propulsive narrative. This is a worthy entry into the growing field of environmental fiction. (Mar.)
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