The description of Stranded by Sarah Goodwin is not the type of book that I would normally be interested in since I don’t enjoy Survivor-type reality shows. But when over 20 reviewers that I follow on Goodreads gave it either 4 or 5 stars, I decided I would give it a go. I’m glad I believed the hype. [In all fairness there were a couple of 2 and 3-star reviews, so this book isn’t for everyone.]
The story is narrated by Maddy, who was an over-protected only child and as an adult is socially awkward. After the unexpected deaths of her parents in an automobile accident, she is accepted to be a contestant for a new television reality show called The Last Refuge. The story begins eighteen months after being sent to an island when Maddy is able to find a boat and escape alone.
For the show, eight contestants and two cameramen are dropped off on a remote Scottish island. The contestants are to act as though they are survivors of a catastrophic event. There is no host, no games, and they are only to contact the cameramen in an extreme emergency. They agree to live on the island from February until January 1st of the next year. Before the four female contestations are dropped off, the production company tells them:
“You are half of a team of eight brave survivors, searching for an unsullied refuge. Together you will remake society, starting again from the ruins to create a utopia. You have one year to get it right, establish infrastructure, govern yourselves and build a future from flotsam, jetsam and the natural resources available to you. If you fail, humanity fails with you”.
Each of the contestants supposedly comes with a special skill set. Maddy is a botanist who is familiar with edible plants. Her knowledge and time spent foraging are not appreciated by some of the other contestants. Before long, cliques form and Maddy becomes the outsider. When the planned January 1st rescue fails to materialize, things go from bad to worse for her. I definitely got Lord of the Flies vibes from this point forward.
I found this story to be entertaining and at times suspenseful. I felt empathy for Maddy and was glad to know from the beginning that she made it through the ordeal. She went to the island to reinvent herself and escape her boring life. She wanted to get over her grief, learn to be kinder, and make new friends. Unfortunately, her awkwardness kept her from getting the others on her side. By the end of the story, Maddy is irrevocably changed by the events, and these changes are not necessarily for the good.
4-Stars. Book club recommended because there could be some fascinating conversations about what went down on Buidseach Island. I listened to the audiobook which was 11 hours and 16 minutes long. The paperback edition is 400 pages.