Sal, by Mick Kitson (Canongate Books, 2018)


Sal is the story of two girls who flee into the wilds of southwest Scotland after one of them murders their abusive step-father, Robert. The story is told by Sal, a thirteen year old girl and the murderer of our tale. She was abused between the ages of 10 and 13 and plotted for a year to kill her tormentor. Old before her years, Sal makes herself an expert in survival and with her younger sister, Peppa, takes to the forests and mountains to escape the world that has let her down so badly. 

Told in an authentic Scottish voice, Sal is a fascinating and engrossing story of survival and growth. It is a coming-of-age tale and a message of sisterly love. Sal look out for her foul-mouthed but adorable 10 year old sister, and in turn they are cared for partly by a kindly old German doctor, Ingrid. In the course of this novel, Sal gets her first period and comes to terms with her mother’s alcoholism.

Although it may be hard to believe that two young children could survive for long in the Scottish wilds during winter, especially having picked up all their survival skills on YouTube, it is nonetheless a very enjoyable story, and the depiction of the natural beauty of Scotland is not to be missed.