Isla Morley
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Buy *Above* by Isla Morley online

Isla Morley
Gallery Books
384 pages
March 2014
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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Morley’s harrowing novel is couched in the fears of a survivalist convinced that the End Times are near. His narrow vision is in sharp contrast to that of sixteen-year-old Blythe Hallowell, who learns the meaning of terror, loss and isolation when she is snatched from home and family by Dobbs Hordin in Eudora, Kansas on the day of an annual town celebration. Told that her brother has been in an accident, Blythe steps willingly into Dobbs’s vehicle to go to the hospital. Familiar with the man from the school library, by the time she realizes the extent of her mistake, they have arrived of an abandoned missile site, one of many dotting the landscape of the state, a Cold War relic sold off piecemeal to any buyers will to purchase the property. Built to withstand any bomb, any attack from outside, the multi-level silo becomes Blythe’s new home, the only one she will know for seventeen years.

A series of stairs, each blocked off by a thick locked door, descends into the pit of the silo, a multi-storied edifice without windows, light provided by fluorescent tubes times to mark day from night. As Blythe writhes with fear and disgust on the floor of what will be her living quarters, with sleeping cot, functional butane stove and chemical toilet, she has only begun to consider the depth of her problem. Blessed with the mind of a teen—one on the verge of first love—Blythe still waits to be rescued, certain someone will find her.

Repulsed by her captor, his bad breath and body odor, Blythe cannot even comprehend that she might be locked with him for years in this dank prison He brutally shaves off every scrap of her hair for fear that DNA evidence might mark him as a suspect while the search continues. This heartless brutality defines the man, his long plan finally put into motion with the kidnapping of his intended victim. He holds complete dominion over her, a fact she will gradually learn to accommodate, clinging to the hope of release one day.

Dobbs maintains physical distance from his prey for a long time, but proximity eventually leads to his decision to use Blythe for what she is intended. He takes her deeper into the silo, past the storage room and the generator to his office, where he displays the books, tapes and records he has gathered, where she transcribes his manifesto over and over on a manual typewriter. He tells her, “We are the remnant, Blythe.”

When Blythe discovers she is pregnant, she is ambivalent—both appalled and joyful, agonizingly lonely yet terrified by the idea of giving birth without assistance. This pregnancy ends sadly (as does Dobbs’ gift of another palliative to her loneliness), but finally a son, Adam is born. The situation brings a new set of circumstances to be dealt with—a child who has never seen the sky or the sun, raised on tales of the end and the dangers outside in the world.

Morley transcends the underground nightmare of forced captivity, reaching beyond the confined parameters of captivity others have created as well (as in Donoghue’s Room). Morley unleashes another level of reality, a dystopian landscape beyond the known, only a mother’s love and profound dedication to the well-being of her son keeping Blythe upright instead of sinking to her knees in despair as she considers what Dobb’s actions have done to her life. Pushing everyone, protagonists and reader alike, into the unfamiliar and terrifying territory of what-if, Morley has constructed a fascinating tale as dark as the underground chambers of an abandoned missile silo yet filled with the hope of those who have endured much for a chance to see the sky.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Luan Gaines, 2014

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