Small Game

By Sarah Smith, Adult Services

I do not have the skills to survive in the wild. I enjoy camping and hiking, but if you dropped me off in the middle of nowhere, I would not make it. I could not build a shelter from branches that would keep me dry in the rain. I could not tell you with any confidence which berries or mushrooms are safe to eat and which are deadly poison. I don’t know which way is North. I would probably cry if I was permanently cut off from my music collection.

Despite my lack of survival skills, I still find myself drawn to stories of survival in the wilderness. I know I’m not the only person who enjoys watching “Naked and Afraid” from the comfort of their couch. It can be inspiring to see how individuals overcome seemingly impossible challenges because, let’s be real, we want the Swiss Family Robinson to be okay on their desert island.

So when I heard that writer and dogsled racer Blair Braverman was publishing her first novel, “Small Game,” about people on a survival-themed reality show, I snapped it up immediately. And yes, Braverman did participate in an episode of “Naked and Afraid,” which is some of the most extreme background research I’ve ever heard of.

Luckily the participants in her fictional reality TV show have clothing, especially since they are in the Northwoods of the Upper Peninsula in late spring. Though they are given little else to aid them in their day-to-day survival and need for food, clean water, and everything else we readers might take for granted. That the competition only gets harder from there made the book a real page-turner for me.

The story includes plenty of technical details about survival, but there’s also some beautiful description of the natural world that reminded me of childhood camping trips in Northern Wisconsin. Possibly what I enjoyed the most was learning about the five contestants and how their different goals and insecurities as participants both helped and added to the challenge of survival for them all. All of these elements combine to make “Small Game” a quick read that was difficult to put down. It was tense and sometimes stressful to read, but it was satisfying to cheer for the success of these characters from the safety of my own home.

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