The Cabin at the End of the World (Paul Tremblay)

The Cabin at the End of the World is a novel by Paul Tremblay.
Finished on: 12.2.2023

Content Note: (critical treatment of) homomisia

Andrew, Eric and their adoptive daughter Wen are on holiday in a remote cabin by a lake when four strangers show up at their doorstep. They force their way inside their home, introduce themselves as Leonard, Adriane, Redmond and Sabrina, and claim that they have all had the same visions that led them to Andrew, Eric and Wen independently. Those visions show them the end of the world – unless Andrew, Eric and Wen make a terrible choice.

The Cabin at the End of the World is a very readable book that kept me hooked. It’s also a celebration of queer love and resilience. Despite that, I didn’t fall in love with it and I can’t really tell you why.

The book cover showing a wooden hut with some trees behind it kind of floating on nothing. Below it are a few crude tool-like weapons that hang from its bottom.

The novel really has many strengths. It is very well-written, making it easy to keep turning the pages. It is engrossing, and I really liked the characters. Eric and Andrew are a great couple and Wen is one of those child characters that actually feels like a child (too often, child characters are just little adults), albeit her point of view chapters being written in a rather adult tone, so not really through her eyes.

There are also some things I definitely didn’t see coming and it’s always good when a story tries to surprise you and actually succeeds. Plus, Eric gets concussed very early in the story, and the way his concussion stays with him and debilitates him was written so vividly, I almost felt concussed myself. That’s all a testament to Tremblay’s writing skills.

The thing I appreciated most about the book, though, was that it has a clear message, and it’s not subtle about it: the way queer people stick together and tell those bigots “fuck you”. Even when they claim that the end of the world hinges on their love, ultimately queer love is more important. The book keeps an excellent balance of ambiguity. Is there really the end of the world? Or is it all just a delusion? Either way, what’s important is that Eric and Andrew keep loving each other. (Just in case you don’t pick up on this, my edition of the novel included endnotes from Tremblay where he all spells it out and points out some of the symbolism he uses in each chapter.)

I did feel a little uncomfortable with the way Wen was portrayed and with her plot arc – a Chinese girl with a (closed) cleft lip, she seems to carry all other marginalizations (apart from queerness) as a character. The book touches on some issues with transracial/transnational adoption, but it seemed to generally ask a little much from the character as a function in the plot. Of course, characters are more than their function, but it just left me with a vague sense of discomfort that I can’t really name. Maybe it felt a little tokenistic, like ultimately Wen was thrown under the bus to make a point about the white guys.

And maybe that’s the reason why I couldn’t love this book completely, despite the many things I loved about it and the central message that I could not appreciate more. But in the end, there was a distance that it couldn’t close.

Summarizing: still, a good read.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.