Book Review: The Sunlight Pilgrims

Shannon Cates

3.5 Stars

September 11, 2017

I expected a book about the end of the world and instead found a strange and lovely exploration of strange and lovely humanity.

Summary: In the future, the world is getting colder and colder and Dylan finds himself moving to one of the coldest places on earth. In his strange new town, he meets Stella and Constance and a host of other weirdos and together they weather the cold and try desperately to figure themselves out.

Review:

There was a lot to love about this book, first and foremost being the writing. It was vaguely stream of consciousness-esque, full of dreamy phrases and descriptions. The dialogue was real, sometimes crude, often funny. If you’re looking for something poetic and beautiful to read, this is it.
(Side note: I felt like I needed a British to American translator for a lot of this book. As someone who’s read and watched and lot of British media this was surprising, but there were many words and phrases I’d never encountered.)
The plot’s focus was not on the impending winter cold but rather on the development of the main characters and their interactions with each other and the town and weather. They were all quite unique and relatable, very odd and special, and a little lost. I loved witnessing how Constance supported her trans daughter. It was fascinating to see Stella’s coming of age in this isolated, snowy world. Dylan was a bit subtler, his journey more focused on grief and loss, but he was a joy to encounter as well.
I did find it a bit slow, eventually the pretty descriptions and internal focus got boring and I found myself skimming for the next thing to happen. The plot is definitely more introspective than anything, not a lot actually happens and the ending is left open and relatively unresolved.
Overall, I adored the writing, finding myself enthralled with many of the beautiful scenes and phrases, but I was disappointed that it wasn’t more action-packed. It’s definitely not a fluff book, more of an introspective, deep novel. I think this is a book that is better in retrospect than during reading. Afterword, certain scenes and phrases stand out and are haunting. I want to go back and analyze, mark up the prettiest parts and make fan content.