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Lark Ascending

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Member Reviews

Lark embarks on harrowing journey across the ocean to a place in Ireland his mother said was safe. Losing all he has ever known, Lark learns about the will to survive and learns to trust again.

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From the Author of Southernmost, Silas House comes his latest fictional tale, Lark Ascending set in a post-apocalyptic world in the not-too-distant future where Lark is forced to flee the United States. He arrives on the shores of Ireland alone, the sole survivor of the voyage, and soon discovers that this new country isn’t the safe haven he’d been hoping for.
This beautifully written tale, of hope and survival despite all odds, is a book for dystopian fiction fans.

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“The song sounded like an adventure about to happen even while it mourned for some past that was being left behind.”

3.5/5 stars

Lark Ascending is a story taking place in a post-apocalyptic world where worse-case scenarios regarding climate change, extremist ideologies, and more have all transpired. Lark is on a journey to seek refuge in Ireland, facing life-changing challenges along the way that test his physical and mental strength.

The book starts mid-journey establishing the necessity of Lark’s journey and how high the stakes are. Afterward, Lark backtracks recounting what led him to where he is. Along the way, Lark meets some fellow travelers including a new best friend. I thought the depiction of the relationship between the dog, Seamus, and Lark was so sweet and genuine.

Lark Ascending” is a plot-driven story as the characters work to reach their destination testing their endurance despite being weighed by grief. Since the story starts at such a charged moment, it fell flat at times but it typically picked back up again. One of these instances was the ending of the book where things left off a little too idyllic after all that happened, it seemed like a ribbon tied nicely on top after a whirlwind of a story. My favorite part of the book was learning about Lark’s childhood in Maine, there is such a childlike innocence in the way it is described despite all the struggles they faced, I could easily read an entire novel about surrounding this.

Lark Ascending is a haunting and harrowing read. If you enjoy speculative fiction, dystopian or apocalyptic reads, check it out!

“We never said ‘When this is over’ because we didn’t realize we were living through something that might have an ending. We just thought we were living.”

I’d like the thank Algonquin Publishing for gifting me an ARC to review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Review coming to my Instagram page soon.

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Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC of this book. This was a doozy in the best way. The writing was poetic without being obtuse or wordy. I was moved nearly to tears a few times, and though the whole situation was gruesome it never felt over the top or like the author was inclined to dwell on those bits. A wonderful addition to the post-apocalyptic fiction canon.

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Big thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an eARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I truly think Silas House is going to be one of the greats to join the contemporary canon. Every book is a new experience and I love seeing what he continues to craft.

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⁉️Do you get motion sickness at all? From boats, long drives, roller coasters, etc?
I don’t, unless I’m reading in the back of a car 😵‍💫🫠

BOOK REVIEW
Lark Ascending, @silashouse
Pub date: September 27, 2022
288 pages
@algonquinbooks

I haven’t been signing up for as many blog tours as I used to, but when @algonquinbooks reached out about Lark Ascending, it took one look at the cover and a read through of the synopsis to add this book to the top of toppling TBR.

It’s a dystopian, the type where a character is faced with their own standards of humanity. When everything and get everyone is stripped from you, what of your humanity remains and what whittles away?

The story follows Lark, an American who has fled his home country for Ireland after the US is devastated by climate change and rules by religious nationalism.

The author uses imagery throughout that taps into the darkest realities we can imagine without having experienced them ourselves. Lark describes himself as a ghost at times, traveling with the ghosts of the loved ones he’s lost, swimming with the ghosts of everyone he’s ever known, laying down on the ground refusing to live until he’s nothing but a collection of bones. The writing is just so haunting and beautiful.

And ugh 😭 his doggie bestie, Seamus . . . Seamus is worth the read alone IMO.

This is a pretty quick at just under 300 pages, but the content is heavy.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

I hadn’t heard of Silas House until now, but am definitely curious as to what he’s got on his backlist 👀

#silashouse #larkascending #algonquin #algonquinbooks #booktour #bookishthings #bookreview #arcreview #bookblog #bookblogger #bookstagram #bookstagrammer #instareading #booksilove #bookrec #bookrecommendation #dystopian #postapocalyptic #dystopianfiction #octoberreads #fallreads #bibliophile #bookworm #newbookstagram #newbooks #newbookalert #bookrelease #bookishfeatures #reading #readers

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If you loved Station Eleven or Handmaid's Tale, you will absolutely love this post-apocalyptic tale of a young man, an old dog, the wild woods of Maine, the transcendent beauty of Ireland, and the resilience of the human spirit. I highly recommend this novel by a gay author featuring a gay main character. This is exactly what our world needs to read right now.

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Lark, a 90 year old man recalls his life. Lark and his parents move from Maryland to Maine. Life in rural in Maine is wonderful but dangerous. His parents are a doctor and and a professor of horticulture. His parents are savvy when it comes to wilderness survival. But as the fires continued, then famine, followed by a takeover by fanatics known as Fundamentalists or Fundies and the ensuing Slaughters. Fundies punish same sex-lovers with death, priests, professors, artists, feminists or anyone who resists or is different. When war breaks out, Lark and his parents head to Canada hoping to find a boat to Ireland. Ireland is rumored to still be taking American refugees. His mother had visited Ireland and told Lark to head for a place called Glendalough which is a monastic community. It becomes Lark’s destination. Most of the people on the yacht are stabbed, shot or drowned. Lark somehow survives. In Ireland, he must use the survival skills he learned from his parents to evade soldiers. When he comes upon a beagle,that was trained not to bark, he continues his journey withe the dog, Seamus. He runs into a woman search for her son. The three of them continue their journey and end up deciding to go to Glendalough. Ireland is in the wretched state as the United States. Pets are no longer allowed since people were starving. Ireland wanted no refugees. Will Lark, Seamus the beagle and the woman make it to Glendolaugh?

It is an engaging apocalyptic novel. The author writes a novel that is conjuring a near future that reminds us to hold onto hope. It is a story of friendship and bravery. It reminded me that it is important to fight to keep our personal freedoms and our humanity.

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Lark Ascending, a near-future dystopian novel, describes the journey of Lark and his family as they travel to survive in a world adjusting to climate catastrophes and overrun by religious nationalists. Along the way, there is love, loss, despair, cruelty and humanity as Lark struggles to travel to Ireland, a land that perhaps offers his last hope to survive, as the rumors suggest they are welcoming refugees. The land isn't as welcoming as anticipated, but he bonds with two other lost souls, one of the last remaining dogs, Seamus, and an older woman, Helen. Together they offer each other hope, resilience, and strength to carry-on. A beautifully descriptive book that makes Lark's experience be fully felt by the reader. Although the characters suffer though great tragedy, there is light that shines through the darkness, offering encouragement and hope for our future, to the readers through a futuristic mirror that echoes our current global state of affairs. I couldn't put the book down! Although the ending was rewarding and satisfying, I so loved the characters, that I had hoped that it had been just a bit longer--to hear more details about the world and their lives after they remained together.
Thanks to NetGalley and Algonquin Books for gifting a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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Grief had ravaged us all. We were the survivors, and we all had lived through nightmare days.
from Lark Ascending by Silas House

An old man is asked to tell his story. He begins with a sea journey of great trial and misery and loss. He weaves his tale backwards and forwards, back to when his family fled the fires and lived in the mountains of Maine before the fires drove them to venture the hazardous journey across the sea to Ireland where they hoped a land that still allowed refugees to find shelter. Instead, they encountered guns. Lark was the only one left, a twenty-year-old boy who had nothing but his mother’s vision of Glendalough, a place of hope.

Lark Ascending grabbed me from the first page, propelled by the sea journey on a crowded boat too small for the storms, the spray and the winds, the misery aboard, the sacrifices of his parents. Then, the arduous journey without food, shoes wearing out, danger all around. It’s brutal, but Lark’s mother had told him to “we don’t give up” and he carries on.

After so many losses, Lark finds two friends to sustain and help him. Seamus, the last dog, and Helen, who helps him avoid the xenophobic Nays and the Banished, traitors rejected by the rebel forces.

Lark inherited a world afire, destroyed by previous generation’s greed. After its collapse, the Fundies imposed their draconian rules and the Slaughters came, targeting priests and professors and artists and homosexuals. His family found refugee in the wilderness. His mother was a horticulturist, his father strong, and they made a life, along with a friend and her children. Lark and Arlo and Serta were best friends, and as they grew into puberty, Lark fell in love with Arlo.

Now I am an old man, I know that there is much to believe in, although I do not have a single word for it the way some people do. To be too certain about a belief is a dangerous thing.
from Lark Ascending by Silas House

Lark teaches that the powerful who used misinformation and discrimination, or gained money or power from war, had “devastated the natural world,” creating the monumental waste of his world. Seamus and Helen became his family, living in Glendalough with all the vagaries of life, sometimes barely surviving, some days filled with wonder of the world.

It’s an emotional ride through a dark landscape, and a warning, and an affirmation that even in loss and pain, we can still discover beauty in this world.

I received an ARC from the publisher. My review is fair and unbiased.

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Book: Lark Ascending
Author: Silas House
Rating: 4 Out of 5 Stars

I would like to thank the publisher, Algonquin Books, for providing me with an ARC.

This is another book that I went into, not knowing a thing about it. I must say that was the best way to go about it. It was a nice surprise. I thought that I was picking up a literary fiction and ended up with a dystopian one. It’s been w while awhile since I’ve read a good dystopian, which I a genre that never gets old for me.

In this one, we follow Lark, who lives in a world that has been torn apart by fire. He and his family seek out this place in Ireland that is supposed to be safe. However, things happen and Lark now finds himself alone in the world. We don’t get a full sense of how bad things are nor do we know what is going on. We follow Lark on his journey to a town in Ireland. It’s about trying to stay alive and stay undetected. Like in other books in this genre, you don’t know who is a friend and who just might try to kill you. While it's not as action-packed as other dystopian books, it’s an exciting ride. You get to follow the characters and experience first-hand what is going on.

Let’s start there. This is one of those books that makes it feel like you are there with the characters, experiencing all that they are going through. You feel their pain and suffering. You feel this desire to return to normal and come to long for the little things that bring you joy. The sense of anxiety and dread is high. It kind of reminded me of the feelings that we all felt during lockdown. You don’t know what is going to happen and you find yourself wishing that you hadn’t taken those simple moments for granted. Yet, you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. There is just enough in this world to give you a sense of hope.

The stakes are high throughout the book. Remember that this is a world in which you don’t know whom to trust. You cannot let your guard down around anyone. However, it is not action-packed. We are following Lark on a journey. I don’t know how else to put it. It is this journey and not knowing what is waiting for you around the corner that kept me going. I guess that what I’m getting at is that I liked following Lark on his journey.

The writing is what sells the book. Like I’ve said several times in this review, you are there with the characters. You are going through the countryside and getting a full sense of what is going on. I don’t know how the author pulls this off. He wraps you in and leaves you waiting to keep going. You want to see how things are going to play out. You see the friendships develop right before your eyes. You feel the grief and the loss. This world is not kind at all. People are going to die and when they do, it hurts.
The characters are a slow burn. You don’t get to know them right away. As with so many elements in the book, the author takes his time to develop the characters. Some moments do seem like a waste of time, but it gives the readers the chance to bond with the characters and see who they are. We see how flawed they are. We see how they long for this connection but are afraid to let their guard down. The idea of wanting to have these friendships and of wanting to feel this kinship is at the heart of so many of us. We all want to feel this sense that we are in these bad situations together. Whenever you feel lonely and isolated, you long for this connection even more.

Overall, I enjoyed this title. If you are looking for a survival book and one that is quick to read, I highly encourage you to give this one a go.

This book comes out on September 27, 2022.

Youtube: https://youtu.be/eBX4XNIjDzY

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Whoa! What a thrilling and exciting story! Lark Ascending by Silas House is a must-read dystopian novel that is gripping, thought-provoking, and unputdownable. I found myself reading late into the night, because I had to find out what would happen next. This book had me hooked and I loved every minute I spent with it. What an excellent story!

America is on fire. Climate change has affected the country in horrific ways. The only way to survive is to get out. And, the only place to go is Ireland, where they are still accepting American refugees. Larks family is able to secure their passage on a boat heading to Ireland, where they are sure they will be safe. Unfortunately, the journey does not go well and Lark winds up the only surviving passenger. Yep, he's twenty years old and alone in a country he doesn't know. But he's determined to make his way to a safe haven, if that is even possible. Along the way he befriends a dog and a woman looking for her son. They make a ragtag trio and decide to travel together. The trip is not an easy one as trouble manages to find them wherever they turn. Talk about a misadventure.

Silas House has created an intriguing story that explores climate change, the environment, politics, survival, friendship, and hope. His writing is top notch and grabs you right from the start. His characters are unforgettable - you can't help but root for Lark. And, his story makes for a damn good read. It is fantastic!

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Apocalyptic novels are a dime a dozen these days, but this one is outstanding in many years. The characters are deftly explore, especially that of Lark and his journey to safety in a world gone wrong. Encountering a mysterious woman and a dog who becomes his companion make this novel ultimately uplifting and a true picture of survival.

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The world has burned. Fires brought on by drought have ravaged the natural world. The famine and destruction caused by climate collapse have introduced such political instability in the United States that a civil war has broken out and the Fundies have taken over. Meanwhile, in Ireland, the Britons have returned to colonize, as they have previously at various times, and the Nays have swept through in opposition to everything but their own power. The freedoms that had been achieved—freedoms of belief and freedoms of the heart—were quickly foreclosed upon by the new regimes. “There is always someone who must rise to power,” Lark admits near the end of the novel. The corruption of power and the violence stored in the human heart have shown themselves, as they have done before and will do again.

The collapse of the global, interconnected world is such that Lark, the protagonist and principal narrator, does not know what a grapefruit is, nor does he have any memory of hamburgers from McDonald’s. The networks of commerce and trade needed to ship goods like subtropical citrus as far north as the backwoods of Maine simply have not endured the collapse of civilization.

The dystopian world described early on in Lark Ascending could be the story of the world during the civil wars that give rise to the society of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale—a world where a restrictive regime, bent on controlling the bodies of others, rises to power. Lark and those with him, though, always remain on the outside, moving through forests and mountains and avoiding urban centers. Thus, the echoes of Atwood that might reverberate through the opening section quickly give way to something more akin to a road novel, like that of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, or Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad.

Dystopian novels offer up an analysis and a critique of society, of power, and of structures of oppression. Road novels can do the same. Yet they also, almost by their very structure, are a form of bildungsroman, especially when the protagonist is young. Their plot device is travel, which brings about new experiences, and through these experiences, the acquisition of knowledge. This plot device allows for the staging of various kinds of peripeteia, reversals of fortune—those brought on by circumstances and accidents outside of the protagonist’s control and those brought on by the blunders or achievements of the character. The device also allows the protagonist to learn from these reversals, hopefully, and lets the protagonist’s character—the good and the bad—show itself.

Although a comparison to such a wide range of books might seem like some random gathering of road novels, these share more than it would seem at first glance. Stevenson’s novel is set in the aftermath of the Jacobite rising of 1745, McCarthy’s after some unnamed apocalypse, St. John Mandel’s after a flu pandemic, and Whitehead’s during the period of American slavery. All of which is to say, the backdrop of each of these is a world falling apart, given over to violence. And yet, and yet, these are stories of trying to survive against the hardest of odds. In the case of House’s novel, this is a story of how humans need community to thrive and survive; how we make and forge a family out of those whom we choose to trust; and how the ability to trust and love others saves us.

Not counting the brief interlude about Seamus, the dog, there are three principal settings and three distinct groups that form Lark’s communities: the mountain home in Maine, after the apocalypse; the Atlantic crossing; and the travel on foot across Ireland to reach Glendalough. Lark and his parents survive in the woods of Maine with Phoebe and her two children, Sera and Arlo. During the crossing, the priest Miriam leads a group that protects Lark’s mother from being thrown overboard and she becomes figure of spiritual solace for Lark. When the mother of a young girl named Charlotte’s dies, Lark takes the young girl under his protection. In Ireland, Lark, Seamus, and Helen form a family. Lark owes his survival to how these various units come together and work for the good of all, regardless of the setbacks they encounter.

Lark Ascending is a celebration of family—both one’s biological family and one’s chosen family. The theme of the importance of chosen family takes place in the novel where the sister of Lark’s father and her wife are taken to concentration camps by the new political regime. In addition, Arlo, who dies in America before the Atlantic crossing, is Lark’s first and deepest love. Theirs is a tender coming-of-age story where they grow into an awareness of themselves and who they love. Although their parents worry about them, given the new political realities, Lark and Arlo are embraced rather than cast out when their love is made known.

This celebration of chosen family is a commentary on the resilience of queer communities in a world that has historically been hostile to them. Indeed, the dystopian world described in the novel has too many recent historical parallels for it to be a speculative novel about the direction that society might take in a world destabilized by the climate crisis. In fact, the presence of the past in the form of Ireland’s recolonization and the presence of the Nays (whose platform seems similar to that of the Know Nothing party of the nineteenth-century United States) are reminders that this novel set in the near future is very aware of the criminalization and incarceration of queer people in recent US and European history.

Coming out, how this act of self-disclosure can be a virtuous moment and an act of power, is staged at various times throughout the novel. When Lark comes out to Sera, she lets him know she has known this for a long time. She even encourages him to come out to her brother Arlo, as she believes Arlo feels the same for Lark. Miriam, against the prohibitions set by the Fundamentalist regime, comes out as a priest and presides over the death rites during the Atlantic crossing. Helen and Lark slowly reveal their secrets to each other and develop a deep and abiding trust that allows them to forgive each other’s missteps.

Lark Ascending, like most of House’s novels, comes with a playlist woven through the story. Although there are many songs in this novel and a good number of poems, I will only mention the poem and the musical composition that give the novel its title, namely, George Meredith’s late nineteenth-century poem “The Lark Ascending” and the early twentieth-century pastoral romance for violin and orchestra written by Ralph Vaughan Williams, based on the poem. In Meredith’s poem, the “voice of one [lark sings] for millions” and its song is “truthful in a tuneful throat.” Williams’s composition, written while World War I ravaged Europe, is a moody, nostalgic piece that weaves folk melodies for the violin into a song of praise for the countryside. Meredith’s poem and Williams’s composition not only give the novel its title and describe the beauty and truth of Lark’s voice, but also they help provide a backdrop that fills out the landscape, with its rolling hills and pastures broken up by copses of trees and larger forests.

The world of Lark Ascending, despite the physical beauty of the mountains, forests, and plains of Maine and Ireland, with their smell of moss and cedar, is harsh and unforgiving. Hunger, political violence, and the lack of modern amenities, like medicine and electricity, make for a hard, bleak world. However, even though there is violence—and this violence marks the lives of all—Lark and his various chosen families survive and share tender, beautiful moments.

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Silas House's latest novel, Lark Ascending, is a dystopian vision of an all-too-plausible near-future that, while horrifying, is laced with tenderness and beauty. The novel's main narrator is Lark, in his nineties, looking back on his formative years in a version of the United States ravaged by the effects of climate change and overrun by fundamentalists (“Fundies”) and the journey he took at twenty years old across the Atlantic to seek sanctuary in Ireland, one of the last countries to accept American climate refugees. He begins his story at the point that he and his parents are on a yacht bound for Ireland. The yacht is sunk just off Ireland's coast, and Lark is the sole survivor in his family. He sets off for Glendalough, a place his parents saw as a beacon of hope and had planned to settle. We learn about Lark's childhood spent in the Maine wilderness with his parents and another family, including his childhood friend and great love, Arlo. On his journey through the Irish countryside, Lark meets Helen and one of the country's last remaining dogs, Seamus, both of whom we learn (Helen through her conversations with Lark and Seamus through the portions of the novel told from his perspective) have suffered their own losses. What emerges is a familiar but tender take on dystopian fiction.

"I’ve heard people say 'We destroyed our world,' but I don’t agree with that. Some of us did. The rest of us were powerless. The rest of us are the ones who had to pay the biggest price."

From its first pages, Lark Ascending is relentless, as Lark’s misfortunes pile up, tragedies both large-scale and personal compounding his misery. The portrait of the world that House paints is, unfortunately, a completely plausible and logical conclusion of current events—the fires, famines, and other crises created by climate change exploited and used by zealots and fundamentalists as an excuse for and means by which to seize power and exert control. “No one ever thought it could happen here,” one of the characters remarks, “but we were overestimating human beings. Turns out it’s easy to convert more people to a cause that takes power from others, that thrives on meanness.” Admittedly, I haven't read some of the works for which House is most well-known, but a dystopian work like Lark Ascending feels like a departure from his usual fare. I have read (and like) a lot of dystopian fiction, but because there are so many examples of this type of fiction done so well (e.g., Station Eleven, The Road, Parable of the Sower), there is always the danger of similar novels coming off as derivative or redundant. Not so here. While Lark Ascending certainly walks a familiar path, it is written so beautifully and with such hope that I devoured it.

"This was a wild patch of land in a thin place. Maybe a thin place can be conjured by people praying for thousands of years. This one had been created by birds cooing in the morning mist, by the soft spray of a waterfall, by the way the light filtered through the glowing leaves. There are all kinds of beauty in this hard world and if you ask me, none of them can be matched by wildness."

I have heard House's writing complimented for the sense of place he is able to create, and that is certainly present here. House's descriptions of each of the worlds that Lark inhabits—the Maine wilderness, the choppy waters of the Atlantic, and finally, the wild and ravaged Irish countryside—are visceral and beautiful. The land is nearly as important a character as Lark and those he meets on his journey. The description of the surrounding land is just one of the many threads that House weaves into the entire novel that come together to make a wonderful reading experience. For example, House has Seamus the beagle narrate certain portions of the novel, which I have seen come off earnest to the point of cheesy elsewhere. But House includes these passages judiciously and intentionally, and it really added to the novel for me. Lark Ascending hooked me immediately because I wanted to know how Lark would pull through what seemed like impossible circumstances. And then, as the novel progressed and we learned more about Lark and his background, the family he had cobbled together despite the odds and then lost so suddenly, I was hooked because I cared about Lark. These are the types of novels I love best.

Despite all the darkness in this novel, House continually ferrets out beauty and light. “Joy and sorrow,” Lark observes, “are the things of life, the two things always tangled together.” A beautifully written and worthy addition to dystopian fiction, I highly recommend Lark Ascending.

*Thanks to the publisher for providing a free copy via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review!*

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A highly believable dystopian novel about the current (and worsening) climate crisis and unfettered fundamentalism. Silas House is a gifted writer and he’s able to keep a dark tale somewhat hopeful by concentrating on the love shared between people and the love between humans and their canine counterparts.

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4.5 STARS

I read this book for a blog tour, so thank you to the blog tour organiser, author and publisher for letting me be part of this tour, and thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

Trigger warnings: tough survival, loss, grief, murder, death, famine, desolation, war, violence, hanging, “concentration” camps, mass murders, animal euthanasia (mentioned), branding (tattoos), factions, blood, gore, vomiting, injuries.

Lark Ascending by Silas House is a riveting yet devastating tale of one man’s survival and hope for a better life. I can always count on Algonquin for poignant and very important books. All those I’ve read from this publisher so far have had a very strong message and while not outwardly my kind of read usually, they’ve always left me speechless at the end and completely in awe. I knew when I started Lark Ascending that it would be a similar experience for me.

This book has multiple settings, but the most important and longest is in Ireland. We first meet Lark as he is on a small boat with about 40 other refugees, fleeing from America where life as we know it has been completely overturned due to massive fires, famine, violence and cruel factions taking power during this struggle for life. The same thing is repeated throughout the world, but Ireland is the last place accepting refugees as we join these characters. They spend a lot of time navigating the Atlantic Ocean, trying to reach the Irish shore before their rations run out or before they turn on one another. Throughout this dangerous journey, it is literally all hands on deck to ensure their survival, but there is definitely this feeling of desolation and fear.

The setting I enjoyed reading about the most was once Lark reached Ireland. He struggles through the Irish landscape for weeks, coming across people or soldiers he has to hide from, slowly coming to grips with the fact that maybe Ireland is not the safe haven they all once thought. This whole voyage kind of made me think of a reversal of the American dream. When the whole world is crumbling, people come back to their roots, to the places the first settlers came from, hoping for refuge and security, above all a better life. I won’t hide the fact that it isn’t the better life they were hoping for and it is assuredly a hard read at times when Lark comes across violent people and places. But I loved reading about his trekking through the countryside with a very special person by his side (which really pulled on my heartstrings) and seeing the beauty of the land jump off the page with every step Lark took. The author did a great job of describing such a beautiful place, although tinged with the remnants of violence, fear, desolation and solitude.

Lark is the main character of this book, retelling his life as he is laying on his deathbed 70 years after the time in which the book is set. He is a great narrator and protagonist and had a beautiful way of writing a story that is both heart-wrenching and beautifully tinged with hope. I think that although the themes and the plot of this book are extremely important and prevalent of where our world could be headed one day if we don’t get our shit together (pardon my French!), this is ultimately a character-driven story. What touched me the most what how Lark retells such hard and gruelling times, both before the crossing to Ireland and after he gets there. For me, it was more a story of a man growing, growing up in a way even though he was already an adult, and evolving in a new and terrifying world and country. It was 100% Lark’s life story, how he got where he is on his death bed and everything he had to endure 70 years previously. I loved him as a character and will keep him in my heart for a long time.

I have to say that next to Lark, Seamus was my favourite character. He is a dog – one of the last ones in this world and time (I won’t say why) – and he has a few chapters to himself where we hear his voice and thoughts, in which he becomes the narrator for a short while. As you know, I have two dogs currently and have always had dogs around me, being very much a dog person, so whenever a dog is featured in a story, it just endears me so much more to it. I loved Seamus and felt both sad and overjoyed for him at multiple points in the book. In the end, I think he got the life he deserved and I am just so glad the author chose to include him as such an important character.

I think the most visible theme in this book is that some kind of catastrophe has befallen the whole world and changed life completely, making it akin to times of tyranny and violence. While we don’t ever learn exactly what has happened and what is going on, or even why, you get a strong sense of fear and uncertainty from this book. It reminded me of communist regimes, life during both WW, and the setting was very close to books such as The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood or 1984 by George Orwell. It is definitely a dark setting and the push for survival is very strong and jumps off the page. You can tell the world is not well, that people have turned on one another and I don’t think you really need to know why or how. It is, in the end, a story of humanity being controlled by those who believe themselves to be the strongest and the righteous, and a tale and murder and survival of the “weakest”. It’s a tale as old as time and it is hard to read at times, but very poignant and important in my opinion… it is a reminder to be kind to one another and to not take our lives for granted.

Watching Lark travel through Ireland without hardly meeting a soul, having to scavenge and pray for food, shelter, safety, sleep and his ultimate goal of finding Glendalough is also a tough tale to read. But it is also endearing and beautiful to read as it reminds us that we will do anything to survive – not in the bad sense, but Lark is one of the good ones, just trying to find peace and safety. It reminds the reader of all the terrible stories of refugees and immigrants travelling over long distances to be refused and turned away at the final hurdle. And I loved reading about this beautiful setting. Even though the world around Lark is fraught with danger and uncertainties, he takes the time to acknowledge how beautiful our world is.

Finally, I found it truly beautiful the way in which the author describes Lark’s life, mainly his struggles and voyage to get from North America to Ireland and keep searching for Glendalough. I don’t want to say much more because it’s a tale to completely immerse oneself in, but it was a truly beautiful story, and a beautiful writing style. It was a very wholesome book that left me feeling good, even though a bit sad – but aren’t those the best kind of books?

As you can tell from this long review, I absolutely adored my time reading this book. It was a very hard book to read at times and the desolation, fear, uncertainty, pain and grief jump off the page at you frequently. But underneath it all, there is always a glimmer of hope that Lark and Seamus cling to and that pushes them forward each step of the way. The writing style was just stunning. I could picture everything. It was fluid, and it just kept me captivated throughout. It was such an effortless book to read despite the tough themes and the violence with is very present.

I gave Lark Ascending by Silas House 4.5 stars. I really loved it and loved the experience of reading it. I think it’s a book that’ll stay with me for a long time and now I definitely want to discover this author’s backlist.
If you love beautifully written but poignant tales about important themes, and feeling that glimmer of hope despite the violence and bleakness, if you love characters you just want to wrap up in your arms and help through all their struggles, and if you love reading about journeys and personal growth, then this is the book for you. In fact, I recommend checking out all of Algonquins books as they’ve not let me down yet!

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Title: Lark Ascending
Author: Silas House
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5

As fires devastate most of the United States, Lark and his family secure a place on a refugee boat headed to Ireland, the last country not yet overrun by extremists and rumored to be accepting American refugees. But Lark is the only one to survive the trip, and once ashore, he doesn’t find the safe haven he’d hoped for. As he runs for his life, Lark finds an abandoned dog who becomes his closest companion, and then a woman in search of her lost son. Together they form a makeshift family and attempt to reach Glendalough, a place they believe will offer protection. But can any community provide the safety that they seek?

Despite the quality of the writing, for me, this was a pointless book. It’s bleak. The plot seemed meandering at best. And the ending didn’t seem to accomplish much. Perhaps it just wasn’t the right choice for me, but the political undertones were narrow-minded enough to make the characters seem very judgmental.

Silas House is a bestselling author. Lark Ascending is his newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Algonquin Books in exchange for an honest review.)

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This is the story of Lark, a young gay man surviving with his family in very dark future times. Climate change has ravaged the earth and as is par for the course with these things the worst of the worst are running things. When he and his family attempt to escape America on a boat for Ireland things go from bad to worse and he is left on his own. His mother‘s last words to him are that he must go on. And so he does. In Ireland he finds a dog, long thought eradicated, and the two companions survive together on their journey to find safety. along the way they face all manner of danger.

Oh my, I absolutely lost myself in this book. I wouldn’t consider myself an overly emotional person but this book made me feel like one. I’m not sure whether it was the bleakness of the environment, the resilience of Lark, the bald truth of humanity or the story of a man and his dog that hit me hardest… Who am I kidding? It was the dog of course! I know this is a dystopian and I totally get the comparisons to Station Eleven but this one also reminded me in a lot of ways of one of my favorites Dog Master by W. Bruce Cameron. I love the weaving of the survival aspects with the heavy expose on grief and the search for a glimmer of hope in the darkest of times. I feel like this one is an absolute masterpiece that will stick with me for a long time. Definitely one of my favorite reads of the year.

I’m not going to lie at times this book is quite bleak, but you will feel so many emoticons reading it and be better for it in the end.

Thanks to Algonquin books for advanced access to this novel. All opinions above are my own.

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In this near-future dystopian world, America is a hellhole, devastated by climate change and controlled by Christian fundamentalists ("Fundies"). Lark and his parents hide out in Maine until he is 20 and they attempt to find refuge in Ireland, thought to be the only place accepting American refugees. The boat journey is perilous and Lark is the only person to survive. He is not met with open arms in Ireland and sets out on a solo journey to reach Glendalough to fulfill a promise to his mother. Along the way he miraculously pairs up with a dog, Seamus. Pets have been outlawed since crops have been destroyed by fires and famine is widespread since there isn't enough food for people, much less pets. Normally I am not a fan of getting into animals heads in books, but I really enjoyed that chapters from Seamus' point of view. They also team up with an older woman, Helen, on their journey. Although this world is frighteningly real and desolate, this book manages to have beautiful moments of hope, survival, companionship and found family. Highly recommend.

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