Stories of a gentle siege
December 5, 2021 8:10 AM   Subscribe

Please help me find gentle, hopeful stories of people surviving long-term and remote isolation through ingenuity, resourcefulness, serendipity, and strength of character.

The keyword here is gentle. I'm not looking for brutality or oppression by other humans. I want a butterknife, not a blade. People might go hungry but they don't actually starve to death. People might get stranded, but they get rescued. They ultimately find themselves deepened by the experience.

Laura Ingalls Wilder's The Long Winter was perfect for this. The Martian book and movie hit the spot. I love Dick Proenekke and Alone, although I have to fast-forward through the injuries. A lot of stories about isolation seem to be about individuals, but I would also like stories of families/communities/towns surviving and emerging together.

Movies, books, podcasts, longreads. Fiction or non. Thank you so much.
posted by mochapickle to Media & Arts (15 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
YA books: My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George and Hatchet by Gary Paulsen.
posted by Rash at 8:23 AM on December 5, 2021 [8 favorites]

"So Much Cooking", a short story by Naomi Kritzer.
posted by brainwane at 8:39 AM on December 5, 2021 [4 favorites]

Hm, this might actually be too gentle, but the colonists in Janet Kagan's Mirabile (review by James Nicoll) are more or less under siege from different life forms. Ingenuity, resourcefulness, serendipity, and strength of character are all present, but what I don't recall is the tension getting very thick--I think a couple stories had some though.
posted by Wobbuffet at 8:46 AM on December 5, 2021 [3 favorites]

Gentle may not be the right word, but the Endurance shipwreck (the 1914 Antarctic expedition lead by Shackleton) is largely a story about people working together to help everyone. Nobody dies. Some people may arguably be dumb, but they are rarely cruel. I remember enjoying Lansing's book, but it's been a long time and there might be better ones now.
posted by eotvos at 9:14 AM on December 5, 2021 [3 favorites]

Hail Mary Project by same author as The Martian (Andy Weir) will definitely scratch that itch.
posted by mmf at 9:22 AM on December 5, 2021 [4 favorites]

The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich. I can't say there are no deaths in it, but the protagonist lives a long life under some strange and sometimes grueling conditions.
posted by typetive at 9:38 AM on December 5, 2021 [1 favorite]

To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers
posted by esoterrica at 9:50 AM on December 5, 2021 [5 favorites]

Seconding the Becky Chambers recommendation. A Closed and Common Orbit, also by Chambers (somewhat a sequel to The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet but you don't strictly need to read them in order), is a story about a former child slave surviving on her own. It might not be as gentle as you've asked for (though it's not horrible) but it's definitely hopeful and about someone emerging changed from the experience. Lots of Chambers' novels touch on this theme to some degree, so if you like either of these then I'd highly recommend.. pretty much everything she's written tbh.
posted by fight or flight at 9:56 AM on December 5, 2021 [2 favorites]

You might enjoy this (true) story of the surprisingly civil German occupation of the island of Sark during WW2.
posted by lhauser at 10:46 AM on December 5, 2021 [2 favorites]

Swiss Family Robinson (the book, haven't seen the movie.) A lovely gentle tale of a shipwrecked family surviving and thriving, and holds up surprisingly well.
posted by Tamanna at 2:00 PM on December 5, 2021 [2 favorites]

Caution about To Be Taught. There's a decidely NOT gentle bit that a number of us found quite upsetting.
posted by DebetEsse at 2:26 PM on December 5, 2021 [1 favorite]

You probably already know it, but Island of the Blue Dolphins is a kids/YA classic.
(And Robinson Crusoe is maybe the ultimate classic.)
posted by trig at 2:28 PM on December 5, 2021 [2 favorites]

Piranesi by Susannah Clarke is very much that. I liked it a lot (and did not care for Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.)
posted by restless_nomad at 3:37 PM on December 5, 2021 [6 favorites]

One of my favorite books of all time: Four Seasons North

It's a beautifully written account of a couple who make their home in the remote Brooks Range in Alaska. It's gentle, fascinating, absorbing and warm. You will love it.
posted by Kangaroo at 3:45 PM on December 5, 2021 [1 favorite]

You may enjoy Alone by Margaret E. Freeman. A teenager misses the evacuation of her town, and must survive until help arrives. It's middle-grade verse novel, and it's not always gentle, but it scratched the itch for me. The Island of the Blue Dolphins does feature as a reference point in-universe, and I really liked the way the story unfolded.
posted by Torosaurus at 6:52 AM on December 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

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