The last time I was this excited about a book’s release was two years ago, when The Silent Patient (by Alex Michaelides) ARCs were doing their rounds.
Word of mouth is one hell of a marketing tool and probably the best that exists. I couldn’t wait to get stuck into The Last Thing To Burn by Will Dean. Why? It could be the attention-grabbing headline, or the cover, or the fact that I had never heard of Will Dean, which means I was coloured-me-curious thrice.
The book opens with the female protagonist Thanh Dao. She has been abducted for a number of years and is in the middle of planning an escape from her kidnapper Lenn, a farmer who keeps her prisoner on remote farmland. He has taken over her life and controls every minute of it, from the time she opens her eyes to the moment she closes them. The story is all about Thanh, how she copes, what her thoughts are, how she misses her family. It is all very, very sad and stomach-churningly frustrating. Because you want to help her, and you want her to get the gumption to leave, but she is so engrained in her life of servitude and imprisonment, that you don’t quite know that she’ll make it.
Thanh’s character is surprisingly strong. I can’t even imagine where she draws her strength from, or what makes her arise in the morning. In a life that revolves around her abductor, who mistreats and violates her, it is tough, really tough to see how she can lift herself every day to another level of survival. And that’s what this tale is about – survival of the human spirit, and to turn corners and never give up. From suffering physical and mental pain, we get to know the real Thanh and what makes her special. Her fortitude is what makes her extraordinary, and Will Dean has one hell of a mind to put his character through that. (That’s a compliment, honest.)
The book is shocking in content, but that is exactly what it aims to be – to draw the reader into its murky depths of human trafficking, enforced labour, imprisonment, abduction. I could go on, but I don’t want to horrify you because I want you to read this book.
It is a stonkingly good read. I finished it over one weekend and emerged from the book bleary eyed and in shock. The thing is, you hear of stories like this all the time, which is what makes it so real. Switch on the news, be it BBC or Sky and I can guarantee there will be some iteration of this tale in the flashing images across your screen. And I think this is what is equally engrossing and alarming, because what is described in the book actually does happen in real life.
The Last Thing To Burn is not an easy read, just because some sections are horrifying to read because of the appalling conditions Thanh suffers. But it is imperative reading all the same. A very well written book that has opened my eyes to other books by Will Dean.
I recommend The Last Thing To Burn so heartily, that I have actual heartburn. Go read it now.