This unconventional coming-of-age story takes place on a Welsh commune and follows the stories of the residents as they deal with the disintegration of their “community” living situation. Following Kate & Albert, a teenage girl and her eleven-year-old brother, their unusual upbringing is causing internal questions and confusion in Kate as she grows up and attends school outside of their commune. Albert, a precocious young boy who believes one of the commune residents’ rants that the world is ending, resents his sister for wanting to live a life outside of the one that they’ve grown up with. Their father, Don, is the leader of said community who is quite the dislikable character, loving the sound of his own voice seemingly more than his family. He is frustrated over the allegations of said commune member, seeing the effect it has had on his young son. What ensues is the dissolution of friendships, a family, a marriage and a community.
An interesting subplot is the idea that Don & his wife Freya have started this commune-type “self-sustaining” living community, with its strict rules and practices, seemingly stifling the children vs the brainwashing of Albert to the notion that the world is ending and all must prepare. Both involve affecting one’s way of thinking and, where Don was constantly pushing for Albert to remain in the commune for school rather than be out in the world, it’s that very “home school” method that shapes the young boy’s mind to think he needs to learn some survival skills with a weapon.
Wild Abandon is full of vivid well-developed characters, so much so that I found myself really detesting the type of man Don is and really disgusted by Albert’s inappropriately clingy behaviour to his sister. Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this book. For me, it started off a bit jumpy & I wasn’t quite sure where it was headed, but the story picks up quickly once the back story is explained further in the 2nd chapter. The characters’ stories are easy to follow and even with the ending that seemed a bit confusing or off-putting (or thought provoking!), it really pulled the reader into the lives of the residents of Blaen-y-llyn.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ (4/5 stars)