I am not the biggest fan of magical realism. I just don’t like wandering through hundreds of pages, completely confused. Now, don’t get me wrong, A Room Away from the Wolves is confusing. But, somehow, Nova Ren Suma makes it work.
Suma’s newest, released just two days ago, follows Sabina “Bina” as she ventures into New York City after being thrown out of the house by her mother. She winds up at Catherine House, a refuge for young women, home to strange residents and even stranger rules.
As Bina navigates through the novel, there is a sense of wrongness, as if she and the reader are missing something critical. But, even upon finishing the book, I still didn’t quite understand what I was missing. I didn’t even know what questions to ask in order to find out. Although this quality can be frustrating in some novels, it only gives A Room Away from the Wolves a more ethereal atmosphere.
“I’d never met a better liar, or a girl I admired more.”
There are seemingly normal coming-of-age-in-New-York scenes in the novel, like when Bina visits her estranged father’s art gallery or when she eats at a French bistro with an enigmatic neighbor. Although these scenes seem run-of-the-mill, they blatantly give away the big reveal at the end of the novel. But, without the reader knowing what questions to ask so they can find out what’s really going on, these scenes seem entirely normal.
It’s not that Suma gives readers a red herring. She just doesn’t give them anything at all. This is what makes her writing so incredible. I’m usually able to guess what will happen at the end of a novel, but I truly had no clue when it came toA Room Away from the Wolves.
If you don’t mind an ambiguous ending, A Room Away from the Wolves is a beautifully written, unique novel. If you loved The Walls Around Us or E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars, I suggest stopping by your favorite local bookstore and picking up Room Away from the Wolves today.