My Name is Monster by Katie Hale / ★★★★★
She is lost and alone in this big broken empty world. I can help her. I can teach her language, and I can teach her survival.
Wow, this book was really something. It begins with a young woman who only goes by her nickname, Monster. She believes herself to be the lone survivor of what appears to be the end of the world, which has been wiped out by war and sickness. She begins her trek home to Scotland, where she has accepted a lifetime of solitude, only to one day discover a young, untamed girl. She immediately takes this girl in as her own, with the intention of teaching and “creating” her from the apparent blank slate that she is.
I did not expect to love this book as much as I did, possibly because Robinson Crusoe was a book a I read in college and did not enjoy much, and seeing that this was partly inspired by it put me off. But I was hooked from the very first page of Monster’s journey. I found her character, an aloof engineer who prefers solitude to the company of almost any sort, and her journey through an empty world, fascinating. While the book never deeply delves into why the world is in its post-apocalyptic state, frequently mentioning war and “The Sickness,” I didn’t mind. The book didn’t necessarily feel about that, and it felt like a reflection of the characters’ mental states to not know, to not think about it.
The book is divided into two parts, the perspective of Monster the adult, and the perspective of the little girl, who is subsequently named Monster, as Monster renames herself Mother. I loved the contrast between their perspectives as the book explored themes of survival, of womanhood, of motherhood and of freedom. This book is not fast paced, but I finished it in just a few days because I found it so captivating. It’s not an easy read, either. It’s troubling and uncomfortable and encapsulates so many layers.
While undoubtedly this book will not satisfy every reader – it can be vague or too subtle, and it does not answer every question – I enjoyed it immensely and don’t think it could have been written any other way and have had the same effect. It’s one that will continue to leave me thinking.