Thursday, 17 October 2013

The Clearing

by Dan Newman
Available October 29, 2013
ISBN: 9781909223523
Format: Large (Trade) Paperback
336 pages - $ 16.99 CAN

I received an email informing me of Exhibit A's future release of this book. I liked the summary and I wanted to discover the author. So I ask and received and ARC (and was so happy to have a real book instead of an ePub!) This book is the last in the challenge R.I.P. VIII.


In 1976, four boys walked into a jungle. Only three came back alive.

Haunted by terrifying childhood memories he doesn't fully understand, journalist Nate Mason returns to the Caribbean island of St. Lucia where he grew up.

Back then, as the son of a diplomat, he was part of an elite social circle. But during a weekend of whispered secrets and dares in a decaying jungle mansion staffed by the descendants of slaves, Nate’s innocence was torn apart.

The survivors of that gathering blamed what happened on a myth, an unseen terror from the bush. No one believed them. But now. almost forty years later, is the truth finally about to come out?

Within hours of arriving back on the island, Nate becomes convinced he’s being followed. He soon discovers that his search for answers could cost him his sanity as well as his life, as he realises that some childhood nightmares never go away.

Can childhood nightmares haunt you for the rest of your life? How much do you need to believe in a monster for it to become real? The Clearing is a dark and atmospheric psychological thriller, full of intrigue, terror and superstition, which examines our deepest fears of the unknown. A potent mix of the friendship and bravery of Stand By Me and the betrayals and fear of Angel Heart.

What I think of it

We follow Nate who returns several years later on the island - where he lived a dramatic story in his youth - to end a series of galleys in his life that are bound to the famous event. We follow him but at different times through flashbacks (at the time of the event when he lived in the island, at a crucial period of his recent past and nowadays). What may seem confusing actually let us understand the current events, the reason for his return to the island and to be closer to him. Because we discover the young boy, full of joy, excitement and terror, we learn to appreciate him, we want to protect him (I confess : the fact that I'm the mother of a pre-teen of the same age had a lot to play in this part !)

Facts, old and new, are discovered along the story. There's that idea that we can't understand the present without knowing the past and that premise is good. There is also a supernatural hand (it is an island!) Voodoo is never far away, odd situations are never exactly explained but are well designed to create a distressing condition for Nate who don't understand them because he's not native. Nor are we, so we very well put ourselves in his shoes, living a surreal adventure (have you ever get a chicken leg thrown in your face?). We do not understand but we feel very uncomfortable. So there is a rise of feelings of discomfort, fear and misunderstanding well conducted by the author, who knows the islands, having lived there.

There are some lengthy parts although the space does not falter. How so? It takes a lot of time for Nate to get to his goal and of course many things happen but at times I felt that the author could have not included some mishaps. Fortunately, the atmosphere of the book, how Newman tells the story and the back and forth in time are so well done that every time I began to find it long, the story bounced, the pace accelerated and I was reconciled with the book.

Nate wishes to return to the place of origin of his bad luck to solve all his problems. I admit that when I discovered why he wanted to go back I found it a bit superfluous. The fear experienced by the children is enough to explain their tell at the time and Nate's desire to return was largely explicable by his guilt associated with the event 25 years ago. The end is not as thrilling than is suggested by the story, even if the author manages to make it more enjoyable by adding a final touch of mystery.

One of the characters in the book (if you can talk about character) is the island itself. Certainly there are other people in the novel but in my opinion the island holds the upper hand with Nate. The author has described it as scary as a spot paradise. As much with a joyful atmosphere as a strange one and just as simple in relationships than full of several customs and beliefs that complicate things. We understand and share the joy of Nate who revisit some places, the longing for his childhood but also his fear. That island has two sides to its coin and it can turn very quickly!

In a nutshell

A good novel with its particular and pleasant atmosphere. A character we learn to like, an island that puts a spell on you. I give it a 3.5/5.

My thought on closing the book: what a good dive into the Culture of the islands!


  1. I'm glad you enjoyed it. For some reason the story is reminding me of another I've read but only vaguely.

    1. Which one? I also thought that the story reminded me of another one but I couldn't remember which one!

  2. What an interesting setting! I think I'll give this book a look just because of that.