We Leave Together marks the end of the story of Joni Lord Jona, Rachel, Djoss, Calipari and the Walkers. The Dogsland trilogy has been terribly painful yet wonderful to read. J.M. McDermott’s prose brought me through the terrors, pain and love expressed in this story about two extremely different yet similar couples.
The Walkers are feared representatives of the goddess Erin. As ham-shifters they are part human and part wolf. Rachel and Jona are half-human and half-demon. Their heritage comes from the Nameless one and expresses itself both in temperament and looks. Both are feared by the general populace.
Similar as they might be, the Walkers and Rachel and Jona are also extremely dissimilar. Rachel and Jona’s half-demon nature makes even their sweat dangerous to other people. Sharing food and drink is impossible because of the effect doing so has on others. Half-demons are hunted down and burned (alive for the most part) along with their properties and very likely any person they might love. The Walkers hunt half-demons and eradicate (as much as possible) any dangerous trace of them.
With Jona’s skull being found at the beginning of the trilogy, we have always known that, for Jona at least, there was never going to be a happily ever after. Considering the nature of Dogsland, happily ever after probably does not happen to any one in the land of McDermott’s mind. But does happily ever after happen even in the real world? Not likely. I suppose there could be a happier after, but never a happily ever after. Humans just aren’t built for it. We all die, we all get sick and we all suffer through pain. Some of us experience more sickness and pain than others, but we all go through such experiences. So too for the citizens of Dogsland.
Homelessness for adults and children, orphans (both homeless and not), class differences, poverty, greed, power-struggles, charity, love, helplessness and need are all visible in Dogsland and our world. Just look around and you will find all of these without needing to look very hard. Djoss becomes one of the helpless ones through his desire to get money quickly. His motives were fine – a better life for himself and his sister. The way he went about it led him into helplessness. Devil-weed is incredibly addictive once you smoke it. Djoss did and now all of his money goes to the drug. Rachel is desperate to get him out of the city with her. But getting out of the city is not a simple thing unless you get hired by a caravan. Who is going to hire a person who is so obviously a drug-addict? Jona wants her to stay because he has fallen for her or possibly the fact that he has finally found another like himself.
So many things work against Jona and Rachel and Djoss. Their own nature, others finding out about that nature and using it against them, having to hide what they are and people hunting them are all factors that make the descent into death for Jona inevitable.
We Leave Together is dark and painful. Somehow it is always the children that get to me.
The boy pulled his dead rat off the fire with two scraps of wood. He picked at it with his bare hands like a hairy chicken wing.
“Where you from, mudskipper?” said Nicola, to the boy.
He shrugged. “Ma said we were from a farm, once.”
“Where’s your ma.”
“I don’t know,” he said.
“Just, you then?”
“I got two brothers. I don’t know where they are, but they’re around.”
Children around the world live in conditions like these. We just don’t see them. Or maybe we choose not to see them. Sometimes they live far enough away from us that we have to make an effort to acknowledge their existence. But even in my wealthy country there are children who know the pangs of hunger unless charity reaches them. What about them? Am I part of the brutality and violence of Dogsland if I choose to ignore that our world is in many ways just like the world of J.M. McDermott?
Did I say We Leave Together was painful? Yes, I believe I did. That area of my chest that aches right before the need to cry engages hurt through most of the story. Definitely recommended.