This incredible and memorable debut was my book of 2014.
When Peggy Hillcoat’s survivalist father takes her to a tumble-down hut in the remote German mountains, it feels like the start of an adventure, skinning squirrels to eat and making porridge from acorns. Then James tells Peggy that an apocalypse has killed the rest of the world including her concert pianist mother Ute. What unfolds is by turns enchanting and menacing. Where Ute has never allowed her daughter to touch her precious piano, James makes a silent piano by fashioning bits of wood into a keyboard. He thereby teaches his little girl to play.
It is told from two points of view – eight-year-old Peggy, and 17-year-old Peggy who has returned to Ute after nine years of living in ‘Die Hutte.’ Because we know that ultimately Peggy escapes, it makes her terrible ordeal a little easier to bear. As James descends into insanity, Peggy’s story takes an even more sinister turn.
While Peggy’s survivalist father turns out to be anything but, it is Peggy who is the ultimate survivor. She is endearing and unforgettable.
Fuller’s description of the forest is so evocative that’s it easy to imagine the textures, colours and smells of the place.
This is literary fiction at its best. Yes, there are sentences beautiful enough to frame, but you won’t find yourself tripping over any self-conscious prose. Neither will you find any ridiculous plot twists. The story is seeded with tiny hints and clues that will keep you staying up late and turning the pages.
Our Endless Numbered Days is an utterly compelling and haunting debut.