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ADRIFT
by Lisa Brideau
Sourcebooks Landmark, May 2023
$16.99
ISBN: 1728265681


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In ADRIFT, Lisa Brideau, a sustainability specialist, has written a fantastic debut eco-thriller. It is fantastic in both senses of the word: well written and engaging, and also a fifteen year stretch into the future when global warming has changed the world's landscape. The setting is the Canadian coast, where refugees who have lost their homes to the rising oceans and heat farther south are arriving. Wild storms are pounding the coastline, each more unprecedented than the last, adding to the sense of life's fragility.

On the ocean, a woman wakes up alone on a sailboat with a horrific headache and no autobiographical memories. She has no memory of sailing in the past, but must find her way to safety in part by freeing her mind from logical constraints and letting her body's muscle memory take over. Throughout the book, she searches for an answer to the question of her past. Her efforts are successful enough that she knows she was part of something illegal. As she builds a new life, she grapples with the conflict between needing to know her past and becoming a new version of herself in the present.

This was truly an un-putdownable book for me. Ess, the main character, struggles to find her place and identity all while facing peril from the elements, border patrol, criminals, and the medical establishment. The various locales in the book are extremely well written and transportative. The storms are almost characters in themselves: frightening, villainous characters. Human characterization is very strong, with the reader feeling the disorientation Ess feels as she tries to make sense of how to live in this new life in which she finds herself. The supporting characters are equally well written, making each feel like a real, complex person. Brideau drops bits of experience into the plot just as Ess must have experienced them, as tiny clues to her past.

The plot, with the criminal, medical, natural, and authoritative world all threatening Ess in either her current or past identity, is very fast-paced and fully engaging. I stayed up into the wee hours of the morning to read the last half of this book, unable to put it down. Even in the midst of this strong plotting, Brideau manages to make the reader reflect upon the nature of identity and social responsibility, bringing a depth to the book that far exceeds most thrillers.

It's hard to believe that this is a debut novel, given its complexity and finesse. I will certainly be watching for Brideau's next effort.

Sharon Mensing, retired educational leader, lives, reads, and enjoys the outdoors in Arizona.

Reviewed by Sharon Mensing, December 2021

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