Joan and her 4-year-old son hide in a zoo overnight as active shooters hunt them.
Ohhhhhh, this book. The suspense is palpable.
Joan and her son, Lincoln, are playing at the zoo and preparing to call it a day when Joan hears a popping noise. The popping noise, she soon discovers, is gunfire. There are active shooters on the grounds.
Panicked, she grabs Lincoln and runs for a hiding place. Over the next several hours, Joan does everything in her power to keep them both alive.
Incorporating a child into the narrative and the constant struggle to keep him safe makes the suspense so much more real. Joan canâ€™t run fast, engage in combat, or be a hero for others.
Phillips writes parenthood exquisitely. The micro-movements you see in your child that instantly tell you a scream is coming. The silliness that carries a childâ€™s imagination to worlds of dinosaurs and robots. The made-up or mispronounced words that become a secret language between you. The future triumphs and challenges you can already foresee, uniquely his before he even enters school. Each next breath so important that the thought of stopping practically seizes you with fear.
Hiding with a small child can’t be easy. Itâ€™s like trying to make water be still.
But somehow, Joan must survive.
True to the title, the fierce kingdom permeates the book. Thereâ€™s the fierceness of the animals in the zoo, the fierce shooters as they hunt for prey both animal and human, and the fierce protective instinct that rules every of Joanâ€™s moves, good and bad.
â€œShe has learned over the course of this night to unclench her teeth. To make herself breathe in and out.â€
Once this line came up, I told myself to do the same thing. I was clenching my teeth and holding my breath just to get through the story.
Itâ€™s fiercely compelling.