Their Faces Were Shining by Tim Wilson, Victoria University Press, $14.95 (digital edition) from meBooks.co.nz, ISBN 9780864736802, Available now.
Tim Wilson uses the rapture to explore the dynamics of one family. Maybe it’s because we’re coming up to 2012, but the end of the world is having a genuine cultural moment right now. Their Faces Were Shining is a tightly written novel, with engaging characters who struggle to deal with an interesting set up: life goes on, even when the world ends.
Given the subject matter it’s unsurprising that in parts it’s emotionally heavy going and in places genuinely harrowing. I read Their Faces Were Shining when I wasn’t in the best place, personally speaking, and had to put it down halfway through because it was just Too Much. After taking a break with another book, I had to steel myself to finish it – and I am so glad I did. Their Faces Were Shining has the best ending I have read in a long time and I put it down with a smile on my face.
I’d hesitate to label the main character, Hope, a protagonist as she wanders through the story, but anyone who survives the end of the world is bound to be a little shell-shocked. I found myself emphasising with each of the three main female characters, and envying the cheerfulness of the best friend (always a sign of a well-written book), but I liked Hope the best. When the book opens, she’s on a diet, wearing uncomfortable shoes, unhappy with her daughter and husband and placing way too much emotional significance on a certain jacket. That’s realism for you.
But Their Faces Were Shining isn’t just the story of one woman: it’s the story of a family, and the relationship between mother and daughter is what really makes this book stand out from the crowd. It’s engaging, harrowing and recommended.
This review is cross-posted from meBooks.co.nz.