Cover Image: In the Clearing

In the Clearing

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Thank you to Mulholland Books for providing me with a copy of J.P. Pomare’s novel, In the Clearing, in exchange for an honest review.

Amy has spent her whole life in “The Clearing” home to a reclusive cult in rural Australia. A preteen and the oldest child on the compound, she has been indoctrinated to fear the outside world. Amy’s life is filled with restrictions, brutal punishments, and manual labor. The focus of the cult is to adore and follow the guidance of their leader, Adrienne, whom is referred to as their “mother.”  Amy’s life changes when she takes part in the kidnapping of a new child to join their cult. 

Freya distrusts society. She lives with her young son, Billy,  in a heavily fortified home with a bunker located on the edge of a national park. Freya takes every possible precaution, yet Billy goes missing. 

In the Clearing alternates between Amy and Freya’s perspectives. The story is intense and engaging from the first chapter, and I found it difficult to put down. Pomare expertly doles out clues regarding Freya’s past, allowing the reader to piece together the mystery of both Freya and Amy. Neither woman is a reliable narrator, yet both hold clues to the mystery of Billy’s disappearance and their stories collide in the most unexpected twist.

In the Clearing was the perfect novel to read on my winter vacation. Although the story is set in scorching hot, drought/fire prone Australia, the tone is ominous and dark. I cozied up on the couch of our rental home, sheltered from the gloomy weather outside, and dove into this psychological thriller.

 It’s an intense read and I can imagine this being turned into an exciting film or television limited series. I’m not easily scared, but elements of the story lingered with me in a haunting way. Pomare has crafted an intriguing plot with fast pacing and memorable characters. If you like thrillers and are not turned-off by a bit of violence, I highly recommend adding In the Clearing to your TBR pile.
Was this review helpful?
I loved the way Pomare brought together the lives of Amy and Freya in this psychological cult mystery.  The book was fast moving and I read it in less than 2 days!  Leaves me wondering what happens to the people who are "rescued" from cults and what their lives are like years later.
Was this review helpful?
After scooping international acclaim and accolades for his debut Call Me Evie, a nerve-jangling and claustrophobic psychological thriller infused with literary flair, JP Pomare avoids any sophomore stumbles with In the Clearing, an excellent novel that cements the Melbourne-based Māori storyteller as a fresh and interesting voice in mystery writing. It addresses some similar themes to his debut – identity, psychological manipulation, and responses to trauma – while being more expansive in scope.

Pomare does a terrific job keeping readers guessing throughout In the Clearing, via both a twisting storyline and the narratives of his main characters Freya and Amy. Both protagonists seem incredibly candid at times – but can we really trust everything they say? Through Amy’s narrative and diaries we learn about ‘The Clearing’, a rural cult with a messianic mother figure that utilizes violent punishments to ensure obedience and ‘realign’ the children in its community back onto the path of ‘the Truth’.

The harrowing abuse involving Amy and her ‘siblings’ is even more chilling given Pomare took inspiration from notorious real-life Australian cult The Family. In the Clearing is a disturbing yet compulsive read, with a snap to its prose and an arresting sense of people and place.
Was this review helpful?
Cults and the psychology behind their leaders and followers has fascinated me for years, so I was excited to read this book. The split narrations adds an interesting depth to the story. The pace moves quickly and surprises pop up on a regular basis, keeping it engaging and fun. The author manages to capture all the elements of the typical cult experience while adding a necessary personal touch to keep it relevant and original. This was an entertaining and enjoyable weekend read. 

Thank you, Mulholland Books, for the advanced copy. The opinions are my own.
Was this review helpful?
This was an interesting read. It kept me guessing and had me constantly feeling like something bad was about to happen. I enjoyed uncovering the pieces of the puzzle in this book and exploring Amy's psychological state after being raised in an extreme cult for most of her life. I was rooting for her the whole way through.

The ending of this one left me pretty chilled, though, and pondering the logistics and psychology of a cult for hours after I finished the book. Conclusion: they are scary.

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Creepy. This is such a fall vibe book. Great to hand sell to fans of horror, mystery or even true crime. A totally engaging read.
Was this review helpful?
A twisty psychological thriller told through the view points of past and present.

In the beginning, I found the narrative confusing and slow, but it picked up for a decent finale. I'll be honest, I started this months ago and put it aside because it wasn't holding my interest. Upon reading a few reviews on it and how good the ending was, I decided to give it another go, and I'm glad I did. 

Once Amy and Freya's stories start to come together, I couldn't put it down. I had to know what happened. I needed to understand why Freya was so protective and how all these missing kids related to the current events. Though I wasn't fully surprised by way things turned out, it was still quite the ending. What was almost a DNF and sitting at at 3 star rating in my mind, made it's way up to a solid 4.

Thank you to Netgalley and Mulholland Books for a copy of this title in exchange for an honest review
Was this review helpful?
This book surprised me.  I didn't like it that much at first but it really grew on me.  I got really involved in both Amy and Freya's story.  The final two twists surprised me but fit in with the theme of is there anyone you can trust after that level of damage and destructiveness.  It was a smart book, while I understand why the author made the names so similar and why two names, it ended up being confusing
Was this review helpful?
A roller coaster of emotions and twists and turns.  The story centers around teenager Amy and mom Frey’s and the cult the Elders.  Freyas and Amy’s world collide with devastating consequences
Was this review helpful?
I was excited to read In the Clearing because I love cult stories and the cult in the story resembles The Family cult.

The story is fast paced and weaves together two different timelines, but it was a little confusing to follow at times. The cult bits where Amy details her childhood were terrifying, but the story with present day Freya was boring and I found myself wanting to skip ahead to the cult bits. 

Overall, I was underwhelmed 🤷🏻‍♀️. Needed more creepy cult parts and less yoga-mom fretting.
Was this review helpful?
A thriller, set in Australia, this is a story of a cult and felt eerily similar to the real cult The Family, This is a very hard review for me to write, as I just did not love this book. I found myself just trying to get through it. At least the book had a fast pace.

Amy grew up in the Clearing all her life with her siblings and that is all she knew. One day Freya joins the group with her young son and Amy’s eye’s open up to the possibilities of what is on the outside.

As you read the book, it has dual timelines, told weeks and days prior to the pivotal event of a kidnapping and the days just after. This book just was just so-so. I found it very dull, for this thriller genre. I personally love cult stories, but this one did not come together for me, like I personally wanted.

Thank you NetGalley and Mulholland Books for an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review
Was this review helpful?
Review of Digital Galley

The kidnapping of seven-year-old Sara McFetridge by members of the Clearing makes her the eleventh child brought into the cult for its leader, Adrienne. The children, [abused and brainwashed into believing they must protect their mother, Adrienne, because she is divine], all believe that when they take a child from the world and bring him or her to the Clearing they are saving that child. As the oldest of the children, Amy is the one selected to help Sara adjust to the Clearing, even as far as correcting her behavior.  

But Sara, now called Asha, tells Amy that the world outside the Clearing is not how the adults in the Clearing have described it to her. The world Amy knows offers harsh punishments, there's never enough food to eat and, despite the brainwashing that tells her it is wrong to question, Amy wonders if there could be any truth in what Asha says.

While everyone searches for Sara, Freya Heywood, who constantly frets over the safety of her seven-year-old son, Billy, feels as if someone is watching her and goes so far as to have panic buttons installed in their home. Then, despite the trained guard dog, her son vanishes from his bed, and she realizes her paranoia was justified. But who took Billy and will Freya be able to find him before the unthinkable happens?

Tension and suspense permeate this intense narrative with Freya and Amy alternately divulging bits and pieces of the unfolding story. Supporting this telling of the tale are several excerpts from Amy’s journal. Well-drawn and believable characters populate the creepy narrative . . . some are innocent while others are unlikable, manipulative, or downright evil. 

Surprising and unexpected twists keep the dark and foreboding narrative veering away from what readers believe they know; the truth is often in very short supply and readers will find it almost impossible not to feel sympathy for the children stolen from their families and imprisoned within the cult. The disturbing story, both riveting and enigmatic, is sure to keep readers on the edge of their seats. 

Highly recommended.

I received a free copy of this digital galley from Mulholland Books and NetGalley 
#InTheClearing #NetGalley
Was this review helpful?
A real page-turner! This book was an easy-reading peek into a cult that helped me pass the time one summer afternoon. It seems like the main character is safely cosseted away from modern society but she, of course, isn't. It sort of reminded me of some real-life Australian cults that operated right in towns and ended up having some members living right near newer members and having run-ins.
Was this review helpful?
This book has rave reviews on GR so maybe I'm missing something.
I've been waiting to get my hands on it for over a year, so my expectations were possibly too high. Either way, I found this book tedious, confusing and it ultimately went nowhere.
I kept reading to find out the connection between Amy and Freya, though I'm not sure why as I didn't find either character particularly interesting.

I hate to be that person because I loved Call Me Evie and Tell Me Lies.
I don't want to take anything away from J.P. Pomare because he's clearly an excellent writer.
This book just wasn't for me.

Thank you to NetGalley for Mulholland Books for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
If you pick up this book you will be hooked from the beginning – like it or not. I have to say this is one of the most disturbing stories I’ve ever read. The content is extremely intense and it's like watching a train wreck, I wanted to stop but really wanted to know what happened. A great thriller with unpredictability and I was mesmerized by the story and how it was told by Freya and Amy. The plot twists and turns splendidly. 

Deeply haunting, but very well written with fantastic insight into human behavior. It explores how hope springs from even the worst disaster. The author is very creative and I have not read anything similar, plus that ending! If you are looking for something different, it’s worth a try. You won’t be disappointed.
Was this review helpful?
After reading Call Me Evie last year I needed this book in my hands. In The Clearing was another 5 star read! J.P Pomare is officially on my favorite authors list... 

Damn! This book was so ####ing good!! I was hooked from page one and couldn't put it down. This is definitely a read in one sitting or late into the night kind of book ... 

I'm so so sooooo fascinated by cults and this book seriously delivered!! I loved that the book was broken up into different parts and my mind was blown several times with the plot twists. Wow! I'm not saying a thing because I don't want to give anything away but if you haven't read this book, DO!! I'm going to be thinking about this book for awhile ... 

Huge thank you to Mulholland Books and Netgalley for my review copy!
Was this review helpful?
Atmospheric and creepy, this is one of those books you read between your fingers as you cover your eyes because you just have to know what happens! Perfect FALL read.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to NetGalley and Mulholland Books for the ARC of In the Clearing by JP Pomare.  

Amy is a teenage member of a cult, living in the Clearing.  Adrienne and Adam, the cult’s leaders, have instructed her to participate in the kidnapping of their brothers and sisters in order to acquire the perfect 12 children.  She is the eldest and must take on a lot of new important responsibilities in order to keep the family safe from the Blue Devils.  When Asha, the girl she helped kidnap, rebels against the cult, a set of actions are put into motion that will forever disrupt life in the Clearing.

Freya fears that she and her son, Billy, are being watched.  She has taken the necessary precautions by installing a sophisticated security system on her house, such as metal shutters on the windows and panic buttons.  She also owns Rocky, a trained attack dog.  When Billy disappears, Freya must confront her past in order to figure out who has Billy and to get him back.

This book started out a little slow for me, but soon picked up the pace and I couldn’t put it down.  It is not for the faint of heart, as it includes scenes of kidnapping and all types of child abuse, such as metal, physical, and sexual.  I thought that I had the plot figured out fairly early, and did guess correctly at one aspect, but it continued to twist and turn and keep my guessing all the way until the end.  There are so many layers to this plot, that constantly challenge the reader to put the pieces together.  This is the first book that I have read by Pomare and I will definitely read Call Me Evie as well.  

4/5 stars
Was this review helpful?
Teenager Amy lives an insular existence in the Clearing, raised by the Elders through strict routine, brainwashing, deprivation, punishment, and fear to believe that everyone outside of it is a threat.

Having lost her first son, Freya is overly-cautious when it comes to protecting her second. Her isolated property is a safe house – fence, alarm, dog, shutters, panic button, even a fire bunker – Freya is prepared for anything. Or is she?

Freya and Amy's worlds are about to collide, with devastating consequences.

In the Clearing is one of those mind-bending reads where little makes sense for most of the novel. And it's maddening and confusing, I'm not going to lie. It’s not an edge-of-your-seat thriller – I would even go as far to say that some parts were slow – but keep reading, don't let your mind wander, and pay close attention to EVERYTHING, because the payoff is a million times worth it. This crazy twisty-turny novel left me gasping and reeling. I now understand why the pacing took its time, and that it had to be executed in such a sly way for it to work. When I turned the last page, I had to go back and re-read some sections because I was unable to comprehend how I could possibly have been so misled? The clues were all there waiting to be unraveled, but apparently not by me. Ingeniously and skillfully done J.P. Pomare.

Chapters switched between Amy and Freya, and also included excerpts from Amy's journal. There is some pretty disturbing content regarding cults and child abuse, but it's written in a way that doesn't overwhelm, and cutaway scenes prevented things from becoming too graphic or explicit.

For those who share my preference for creepy twisted psychological thrillers, In the Clearing is a dead certainty.
Was this review helpful?
Amy has only know life in the clearing, strict rules and punishments and above all, to protect the queen.  When a new girl joins their “family”, Amy is handed the responsibility of settling her into their way of life.  But as the young girl rebels and finds ways to escape, Amy’s life is about to take a drastic turn.
Although Freya finds ways to act normal, she is anything but.  Living in her remote house with all the security measures one could think of, she takes care of her young son while always looking over her shoulder.  When a child goes missing and someone from her past suddenly shows up, all of her worst fears are about to surface.
It’s hard to say anymore about this book without giving too much away.  The time line switches between Amy and Freya until their stories collide with some shocking twists and revelations.  I really like his writing and this book was atmospheric with a great mix of mystery and intrigue.  The characters were well developed and I was dying to know their stories.  But with each page, I still had no clue.  I think this one is worth a read.
Was this review helpful?