Sealed by Naomi Booth was one of the latest novels I have acquired from backing indie publisher Dead Ink’s ‘Publishing the Underground’ crowd funding campaign. Dead Ink’s aim is to introduce readers to books that are daring and challenging, from authors who may otherwise escape our notice. And as I settled down to read Sealed, I quickly realised this would be a book I wouldn’t forget in a hurry.
The central character in this story is Alice who decides to move out of the city with her partner Pete. The main reason for this is that Alice is heavily pregnant, and faced with the prospect of a terrifying epidemic spreading through the urban population; she is determined to do what is necessary to protect her unborn child. The epidemic which she fears is an unusual one – a skin sealing illness which results in its sufferer’s skin literally knitting together – sealing them off from the world around them. Rumours of the illness spreading haunt Alice, and the pressure takes its toll on her and her relationship with Pete. I read on in interest to see how life would change for Alice in her rural, mountain home, where she hopes to have a fresh start, to bring up her child in a safe environment. But as they settle in it becomes apparent that everything is not quite as it seems, and there is a new danger lurking that leaves them under threat…
The premise of this book was an unusual one, and one that interested me. I would describe Sealed as a work of speculative fiction, which envisages a world in which the human race has to contend with a startling threat from their own bodies, their own skin. The nature of the skin sealing epidemic which is present throughout means that there are passages of writing that make for uncomfortable reading as we see how the effects of the illness take hold which is vividly described. And as events begin to spiral out of control, with Alice’s desperation intensifying there are particular moments in the later stages of the story which make for grim reading. This is a visceral read which certainly held my attention. At around 170 pages it is a relatively short book and I finished reading within a day. But despite its brevity its one that is memorable. It is ultimately a story of motherhood, and the lengths that a mother would go to protect her child, even when the world is at its most frightening. It explores what happens when ordinary people are faced with extraordinary circumstances, and how we can learn to live in the hope of a better world.
Sealed was a published with help from readers via Publishing The Underground. To find out how you can help support these authors and their books you can visit the Dead Ink website here.