Book: “Getaway” by Zoje Stage
Publishing Info: Mulholland Books, August 2021
Where Did I Get This Book: The library!
Book Description: It was supposed to be the perfect week away . . .
Imogen and Beck, two sisters who couldn’t be more different, have been friends with Tilda since high school. Once inseparable, over two decades the women have grown apart. But after Imogen survives a traumatic attack, Beck suggests they all reunite to hike deep into the Grand Canyon’s backcountry. A week away, secluded in nature . . . surely it’s just what they need.
But as the terrain grows tougher, tensions from their shared past bubble up. And when supplies begin to disappear, it becomes clear secrets aren’t the only thing they’re being stalked by. As friendship and survival collide with an unspeakable evil, Getaway becomes another riveting thriller from a growing master of suspense and “a literary horror writer on the rise” (BookPage).
Review: We’ve established this again and again, but I’m not really a camping person. While I am absolutely down for going up North to a remote location, more often than not I want that location to have a hotel that I can rest my weary head in. But I do love thrillers and horror stories that involve being out in the wilderness, as it probably lights up a deep seated fear that I have that prompts me to go for a cabin versus a tent. “Getaway” by Zoje Stage caught my eye for two reasons: 1) I read her previous novel “Wonderland”, and while it didn’t really connect with me as much as I’d hoped, I knew that I wanted to read more of her work, and 2) I am always, ALWAYS going to be on board for a danger in the wilderness story!
Stage creates the perfect set up for this danger in the wilderness story, and at first glance it sounds a lot like the film “The Descent”, in terms of motivation. Imogen is a woman who survives a mass shooting at her synagogue, and has been experiencing PTSD on top of OTHER PTSD that stems from another trauma in her life (known as ‘The Thing’ at first). Her older sister Beck and their long time friend Tilda (who has a somewhat strained relationship with Imogen) think that a backpacking trip into the Grand Canyon would be beneficial for Imogen’s mental health and great way to reconnect, but, as the description says, once they are in the thick of their trip, it’s clear that someone else is out there with them. Stage has a good blend of personal strife to go along with the slowly building unease, as the three women, all friends at one point but now drifting for multiple reasons, may not really trust each other as much as they should in a situation like this. We slowly start to learn the dynamics of this group, and how they have gotten to the point of mistrust, and I liked that Stage makes sure to be careful in how she portrays sticky themes while still giving all of these women room to grow, room to be messy, and room to adapt as their situation becomes more and more dire. I fully expected the characters to mostly stick to tropes (and Beck kind of does, as the reliable and logic minded doctor), but by the end they all have well explored characterizations that made them complex and realistic. This made it so I was all the more attached to them as the story progressed, which in turn made the tension all the more dire as they find out just who it is that is nearby (I’m being vague! I’m sorry! I just don’t want to spoil anything).
And let’s talk about that tension. “Getaway” absolutely touches on every point that I love in a wilderness thriller story, from the unrelenting apathy of nature to the elements being a danger to the foreboding sense of being watched in the dark. And even when Stage kind of showed her cards earlier than I was expecting and made it clear as to what Imogen, Beck, and Tilda were dealing with, I was still totally immersed even though I probably would have been happier to string it out even longer. By the end things were going at a breakneck speed, and the suspense was making me unable to put the book down so easily. It was also pretty cool that the tension wasn’t just limited to the danger that they didn’t calculate for. Because there are plenty of moments of suspense that just involve being on a backpacking hike in the Grand Canyon, given that rough trails and narrow paths overlooking cliffs are things that the characters DO know about, and have to maneuver through even when they don’t realize they are being tracked. I love it when stories can incorporate the actual horrors of these kinds of things. I mean, going back to “The Descent” again, some of the scariest moments involve the claustrophobia and unpredictability of caving, and “The Blair Witch Project” milks a lot of terror from being lost in the woods. “Getaway” has plenty to work with when it comes to The Grand Canyon and how dangerous it can be on its own.
“Getaway” is a tense and satisfying thriller that doesn’t relent on the suspense once it gets going, and the characters likability makes it all the more stressful. In a good way. I’m glad I went back to Zoje Stage, because this one really worked for me.
Rating 8: Incredibly tense and filled with realistic characters and dramatic moments, “Getaway” doesn’t let up on the intensity of being in danger in the middle of nowhere.
“Getaway” is included on the Goodreads lists “Best Wilderness Horror Stories”, and “2021 Horror Novels Written By Women (Cis and Trans), and Non-Binary Femmes”.