Tag Archive | post apocalypse

Book review: The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin

The Obelisk Gate (The Broken Earth, #2)The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In The Fifth Season, we were introduced to Essun after the loss of her family. In The Obelisk Gate, we find out what happened to her daughter Nassun after her father killed her little brother and took off for parts unknown.

Essun works diligently to fit in and provide aid and stability to the underground community that has taken her and her traveling companions in. But politics and infighting, within the community and between the Stone Eaters who show up in unexpected places, make her situation precarious. Her Orogene abilities grow ever more powerful; meanwhile, Alabaster is dying, inch by inch.

Nassun travels across the ravaged countryside with her increasingly unstable father, until they reach their destination, a school that supposedly can cure Nassun of her Orogene nature. She, too, shows an increase in her power, much to her father’s dismay, leading to discord and treachery.

Environmental conditions worsen, vicious gangs roam the land; and the Obelisks approach.  And both Nessun and Essun are asked to consider the possibility of the prior existence of something called “the Moon.”

2017SFFReadingChallengeLike the first, illuminating excerpts from this culture’s foundational texts are sprinkled throughout the novel.  I love this method of providing back story and cultural context.

A worthy follow-up to the first volume. I can hardly wait for the third!

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This book was read as part of the 2017 Award-Winning SF/F Challenge.  Click that badge over there to see what others have been reading.  And once there, consider joining us.

Book review: The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

The Windup GirlThe Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The heat is nearly unbearable.

The ice caps melted; the sea-level rose; the fossil-fuel economy collapsed; worldwide famine ensued; and Asia took the lead in science- and technology-driven solutions. Unfortunately, the genetically-engineered crops produced by the agricultural research companies also produced horrific diseases for crops and for people, further decimating global population and food supply. Riots, black markets, corporate espionage, ethnic cleansing…the world of 100 years or so from now is not a pleasant place, unless one is very wealthy.

And in Paolo Bacigalupi’s future vision, one is either very wealthy, or one is not. The only denizens of a nearly non-existent middle class are the calorie-men, like Anderson Lake, the manager of the factory where much of the action of this novel centers.

Anderson Lake prowls the street markets of Bangkok, hoping to find pure, unaltered food — a real canteloupe, an actual vine-grown tomato — that he can purchase and take back to his employer for gene analysis and modification. What he finds, eventually, is Enniko.

Enniko — the Windup Girl of the title — is a “New Person”, the genetically-engineered, vat-grown human-like plaything of a Japanese businessman, who left her behind in Bangkok when he grew tired of her. Her unaccompanied presence in the city is problematic, and she places herself under the protection of unsavory individuals for her personal safety.

Around both of them, Bangkok is aswirl with civil unrest, thievery, police corruption, political assassination attempts, and the outbreak of a new and mysterious disease. There’s so much going on in this story that it’s nearly impossible to synopsize.

It’s not an easy read: lots of characters and subplots to follow; lots of Bacigalupi-created neologisms; lots of untranslated Asian-language words (presumably Thai, but I could be wrong). The word meanings can be gathered from context, but it makes for slow going initially.

Have I mentioned that I loved it? I did. It’s fabulous. Gut-wrenching, heart-breaking, horrifying, and spectacular. Once I finally got into the story, I could hardly bear to put it down.

2017SFFReadingChallengeThis is not a story for everyone. But it was the story for me.

(If you like China Miéville, you will love this. Trust me.)

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This book was read as part of the 2017 Award-Winning Science Fiction/Fantasy Reading Challenge.  Click that badge on the right to see what other participants have read.

Video review: The Day of the Triffids (BBC mini-series)


This 1981 BBC mini-series wasn’t what I intended to order from Netflix.  I had intended to order the 1962 B-movie starring Howard Keel, which I hadn’t seen since I was a teenager camped out in front of the television watching Bob Wilkins host Creature Features on Saturday afternoons.  So when the single-disc mini-series, comprised of six 26-minute episodes, arrived, I was somewhat puzzled until I looked at our Netflix account and realized “Oh, yeah, the 1962 film isn’t available, that’s why I got this one.” (IMDB indicates there’s yet another version, a two-part mini-series made in 2009, also British.)

No matter.  I watched it anyway, the day after I finished the book.  And the show is a faithful adaptation of its source material, with much of the dialogue coming straight out of the book.  It’s been updated so that it takes place in the early 1980s, so the chauvinism and sexism are somewhat lessened — omigosh, there’s an actual female who speaks from a position of authority — but the basics of the plot are fully intact.  I was fascinated by the depiction of the triffids in this version.  Keep in mind the only triffid I had ever seen on screen was that from the 1962 film — to the best of my recollection, they looked vaguely like walking asparagus with flailing “arms” and a kind of a dandelion-type “head”.  But the 1981 version looked a great deal like a titan arum, also known as a corpse flower.

PerfumeHere’s the titan arum my husband and I visited when it flowered at UC Davis in 2007. It’s huge. And it stinks.  Imagine this plant on a six-foot stalk, with the ability to walk — well, shuffle — and sting and eat carrion flesh.

Absolutely terrifying.

I didn’t make the connection until seeing it on the screen, but that first episode, set in the hospital where Bill Masen awakens to a silent world, vividly reminded me of the first episode of The Walking Dead.  Same eerie quiet, same vacant streets, same desperate effort to find other living human beings and discover what happened.

So, set aside the cheesy early 80s fashion — sheesh, did we really wear our makeup like that? — and the horrendous videotape production quality so common in early 80s TV (on both sides of the Atlantic), and prepare yourself for about two and a half hours of post-apocalyptic fun and games, dodging deadly triffids and ruthless press gangs and militia groups intent on enforcing their version of law and order.

Reviewed for R.I.P XI “Peril on the Screen” Challenge.  Click the badge to find out more about this annual event.

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2014 in review: Books

I got much more reading done this year than I expected. Part of that was due, I believe, to acquiring a Kindle and being willing to take a chance on Amazon freebies, some of which were hits, others misses. It’s easy to read the Kindle on the train; that extra uninterrupted 40+ minutes of reading time each day added up to a lot of pages. 31,567 pages to be precise.

Goodreads said I read 83 books in 2014. I actually started 83 books. I finished 76. Seven books were set aside before finishing because they were just too awful to continue. (I told you some of those Amazon freebies were misses.) However, one of those set aside was The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos, so even Pulitzer Prize winners are sometimes misses for me. Anyway, out of those 76 finished, five were re-reads. So 71 new-to-me books in a single year. I call that a win.

Several of those 71 books were stand-outs.

The Many Deaths of the Firefly BrothersThe first five volumes of George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire cycle consumed a goodly portion of the first quarter of 2014. I expect I’ll start re-reading them as soon as I hear of a publication date for Volume VI. I’m hoping that publication date will be later this year.

The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers by Thomas Mullen was a roller-coaster ride through the Depression with a pair of bank robbers who just won’t stay dead. This is one of those books that grabbed me first because of its enigmatic cover art but kept me intrigued by its premise and execution. I read this one on the plane during a flight to California.

Perdido Street StationPerdido Street Station by China Miéville astonished me, sickened me, disturbed me, and amazed me. I seldom give five stars to any book, but this one deserved top billing without doubt. As I said in my review, Perdido Street Station isn’t for everyone — it’s a challenge in both language and content — but I’m going to recommend it to everyone regardless. Seriously. Don’t miss it.

Max Barry’s Lexicon, which deals with a secret government entity that uses the power of words and knowledge of certain personality traits to manipulate people into particular actions, cured me of taking any more Facebook quizzes and posting them Lexiconto my wall. Barry has a gift for plot-driven stories that move forward at Warp 10 but still manage to give the reader decently-realized characters and generally plausible Night Filmstorylines. Lexicon is a fast fun popcorn novel that scared the bejabbers out of me.

I read Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl in 2013 and thought it was excellent. Based on that experience, I grabbed Night Film as soon as I found it in my library’s catalog. I was not disappointed. Night Film explores the aftermath of a suicide, the power of film, and the boundaries of obsession. It’s dark and dreamy and enigmatic and twisted and a disturbing pleasure to read.

Tell the Wolves I'm HomeTell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt introduces us to a grieving 14-year-old June Elbus after the death of her beloved uncle Finn. June’s mother, who is Finn’s sister, doesn’t seem to care much that her only brother has died, and June doesn’t know why. Then June meets Finn’s roommate, Toby, and discovers hidden aspects to her uncle’s life. This novel works on a number of levels: an exploration of society’s reaction to AIDS in 1987, a not-so-typical coming-of-age story as June realizes her uncle had an entire life that didn’t include her, and a dissection of family dynamics when one member of the family is considered an untouchable by the others. Plus it’s gorgeously written. So, yeah, if you haven’t read this one, put it on your list.

WoolFinally, I want to mention a couple of trilogies. First, the Silo Trilogy by Hugh Howey, consisting of Wool, Shift, and Dust. I’ve read a lot, and I mean a lot, of post-apocalyptic stories, and the Silo Trilogy was hands-down one of the most original explorations of that theme I’ve seen in a lifetime of reading. In the not-so-distant future, thousands of people, survivors of an unnamed apocalypse, live underground in a silo. They don’t know how long they’ve been there; they don’t know how long it will be before they’re allowed to live above ground; but in the meantime, there’s work to be done, repairs to be made, and people to feed. Discontent is brewing, though, and revolution is in the air. This trilogy, while very well done, is not without its flaws, especially in Book 3, but its overall excellence makes those flaws worth overlooking.

The Last PolicemanThe other trilogy worthy of mention is technically “pre-apocalypse”, because the world-ending event hasn’t yet happened, but it’s post-apocalypse in the sense that global societal structure has already collapsed. In The Last Policeman Trilogy by Ben H. Winters — The Last Policeman, Countdown City, and World of Trouble — a previously unknown asteroid has been verified to be on collision course with Earth, and the date of impact is approaching. Detective Hank Palace of the Concord, New Hampshire, Police Department keeps showing up for work while more and more of his colleagues and fellow citizens bail out of their jobs, their marriages, and their lives to fulfill lifelong dreams or, as is all too often the case, to kill themselves in despair. Each novel takes us closer to the impact date and deeper into Hank’s efforts to find meaning and purpose in these last months and weeks and days. He clings to his humanity, to his belief in goodness, and to his life itself, despite recognizing that everything he knows and everyone he loves is gone. Hank is a gorgeous, generous, determined character, and this trilogy, although deeply sad, is a testament to the beauty of life even in the face of extermination.

You can see the entire 2014 list on Goodreads here.

R.I.P IX applies to movies and TV, too!

RIP 9 Peril on the Screen
I almost forgot I pledged to join “Peril on the Screen” too. Luckily, spouse’s and my general TV/movie viewing choices tend to fall into the mystery/horror/thriller/suspense categories anyway. I can’t recall all the way back to September 1 by myself, so we’ll check the Netflix “recently watched” list and get started.

Actually, no. First, let’s talk about TV!

Walking Dead Banner
Naturally, The Walking Dead season premiere was avidly consumed this past Sunday, and it took up almost immediately where last season left off. I was rather surprised by the way the episode turned out with regard to a certain threat, but I’m awfully happy to see Rick putting the band back together. I’m so glad this show is back, even if it’s more gory than ever! Yeah, I usually watch a good third of each episode through my fingers. Love the story but the blood? Not so much. But I’m looking forward to the rest of the season, regardless.

Sleepy Hollow TV Banner 1
Then there’s Sleepy Hollow, back for its second season. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are still approaching: what will Ichabod and Abby do next to thwart their plans? Spouse and I both love this show not only because of a distant family connection with its source material, but because it’s so well done! The storyline is utterly implausible, of course, but the acting is wonderful, the stars very easy on the eyes, and all the supporting players are superb. I don’t quite know what to think about the newest character, Nick Hawley the “antiquities” hunter, but I’m sure his loyalties will be revealed soon. And let me just say this: I’m extremely happy to see a mainstream network (which Fox is now) series featuring a woman of color in a powerful leading role without making her a racial stereotype (at least, not so far as this middle-aged Caucasian woman can discern).

Gotham Banner
Speaking of Fox, we’re also rather impressed with Gotham, the network’s take on the origin stories of Batman, Catwoman, Penguin, and so forth. Thus far, young Bruce (played by David Mazouz) is rather whiny and self-involved, which is understandable due to his age and trauma, and Fox has wisely limited his screen time, preferring to concentrate on the adults in the series and the events that will give rise to the Caped Crusader and his sworn enemies. The bad thing about young Bruce’s limited screen time is it also limits the screen time of the loyal Alfred, played by Sean Pertwee (yes, the son of the Third Doctor and a marvelous actor in his own right).

Gracepoint Banner
Finally on the “small screen” is Fox’s Gracepoint, a nearly shot-for-shot remake of BBC America’s Broadchurch, aired earlier this year, and featuring David Tennant reviving his Broadchurch role as a detective brought in to investigate the murder of a boy in a small town. I wasn’t sure I was going to watch this, not even for the pleasure of Mr. Tennant’s company (and his partially successful American accent), since I’d already seen the BBC America production, but then I learned it would have two or three more episodes than the BBC show, and possibly a different ending. Thus far, nothing new has been revealed, but the casting is good, the acting is very good, and the location (northern California coast, ostensibly Mendocino or Humboldt County) is gorgeous.

The Last Days on MarsOn the big screen (which, in our house, means movies we watched at home because we seldom go to the cinema), Netflix must serve as a reminder. In September, we saw The Last Days on Mars, which to tell the truth I remember virtually nothing about except that it starred Liev Schreiber (yum) and had a bunch of folks in spacesuits running around trying to kill each other. According to Netflix, I gave it three stars (for “I liked it”) so it was at least enjoyable.

A Japanese film with English subtitles caught me by surprise. The Doomsday Book is a sci-fi anthology flick: three separate stories, three separate takes on an apocalypse (actual or implied). In the first segment, zombies. Second segment, robots. Third segment, death from the skies. Of the three segments, I think the zombie story is the least successful. I loved the Zen robot in segment two; and the third story was quite good and funny, but left me scratching my head (which means I should probably watch it again because obviously I missed something). The subtitles are only a marginal distraction from the gorgeous cinematography. It’s not rated, but I wouldn’t call it family-friendly by any means.

How I Live NowHow I Live Now (based on the YA novel of the same name) was another post-apocalyptic flick that came as a pleasant surprise. Daisy, an American teenager, is sent abroad to spend the summer with her English cousins. Shortly after she arrives, nuclear war breaks out, leaving Daisy and her cousins alone in the countryside to survive as best they can. In the beginning, Daisy is clearly a bitter, self-entitled, selfish little beeyotch; she’s as unlikeable as a character can be without murdering someone. As the film progresses, though, we learn just a little about what made her that way, but more importantly, we watch her grow up as she is forced to care about someone other than herself. Some truly heart-rending scenes and lovely acting by all involved.

Solomon KaneAnd finally, Solomon Kane, an historical horror story that gets its history all collywobbled, but still manages to be entertaining. The title character is an evil mercenary who plunders and pillages and murders at will in what appears to be the Middle East (circa 1600). But when he’s confronted by The Devil’s Reaper come to claim his soul, he escapes to his native England and takes up residence in a monastery to atone for his lifetime of sin. A year later, the abbot tells Kane his destiny does not lie within the abbey walls, and he must leave his sanctuary to seek his true path. Naturally, his true path leads to encounters with witches, demons, and other types of evil. It’s actually rather silly, and I suspect the historical context is there only for the mud and the blood and the general societal belief in witchcraft, because English Catholicism is awfully conspicuous for events taking RIP 9 Portraitplace in the last few years of Elizabeth I’s reign. Still, the film stars James Purefoy (yum) and features the marvelous Pete Postlethwaite (may flights of angels sing him to his rest) and equally marvelous Alice Krige in crucial character roles.

And that’s it thus far for Peril on the Screen. Click that badge over there to be whisked away to a list of other R.I.P. IX blog entries.

R.I.P. IX — More stuff I’ve read

RIP 9 Peril the First
Today we’re going to discuss the Amazon Kindle freebies read in connection with R.I.P. IX. Amazon freebies are always hit-and-miss as far as quality goes. The books I pulled out of my library of Kindle freebies were no different. Let’s start with Awakening: Children of the After #1.
Awakening: Children of the After #1Siblings Jack, Samantha, and Will emerge from the family security vault six months after their father left them inside and told them not to come out until he returned. Upon reaching the last of their stores of food and water, they decide to take a chance and open the door upon a devastated Chicago. The rest of this short novel follows their trip across town in search of (a) food and water; and (b) the way to Grandma’s house outside the city. While the story is reasonably well-written, it has one fatal flaw: The author decided to switch perspectives continuously between the three children; and reading about the same event three times from three POVs (one of which is that of a 7-year-old boy) is annoying. Given that annoyance, my minor intrigue into the mystery of what happened to the world isn’t sufficient to warrant seeking out the other books in the series. 2 stars (out of 5).

The Bird EaterThe Bird Eater by Ania Ahlborn is good on atmosphere, not so good on character development. 20 years after being orphaned, Aaron returns to his childhood home in Northwest Arkansas to grieve the death of his son and the collapse of his marriage. He moves into his aunt’s old house, itself abandoned for the last 20 years, and starts making repairs, with the idea that he would sell it and be done. Then odd bits of vandalism begin, often accompanied by a quick sighting of a young boy.

As Aaron begins asking questions, trying to find out who this boy is, he learns his old home is considered haunted or possessed or just plain evil by the townsfolk. Naturally, Aaron scoffs at the idea, but when one of his childhood buddies turns out to be an amateur ghost-hunter, he becomes a little more open-minded. Throw in the now-married childhood sweetheart who never got over her crush on Aaron, and the recipe is complete for a Ozark Peyton Place by way of Dark Shadows.

While this book isn’t totally awful, I quickly grew tired of the two-dimensional characters and heavy-handed Portents of Dread that permeate the narrative. And I wasn’t satisfied with the skimpy explanation of the origin of the evil the author eventually provided. It’s almost like she remembered near the end of the book “Oh, yeah, I have to give the reader some kind of closure, don’t I!” Kudos for the pervasive gloom and some genuinely terrifying moments. 2 1/2 stars.

The BarkeepThe Barkeep by William Lashner isn’t exactly your standard-issue thriller. Justin Chase tends bar in one of the city’s more trendy nightspots. It’s more trendy because Justin is behind the bar. He has a following. He also has a father in prison for the murder of his mother; and an older brother who resents him because his testimony was instrumental in the conviction of their father. Then one night a man with the unlikely name of Birdie Grackle walks into the bar and tells Justin he was the one who murdered Justin’s mother. He had been hired to do so. And would Justin like to know who hired him? Enjoyable noir-ish fluff. Bartender psycho-analysis dispensed with pseudo-Zen philosophy and a dry vodka martini, blended with beautiful women, fisticuffs, and mayhem. I liked it. 3 stars.

In the DarkI’ll tell you right up front I didn’t finish In the Dark by Brandon Massey because I didn’t like either of the main characters and the story wasn’t interesting enough to put up with people I didn’t like. Len and Olivia Bowden have finally purchased their dream home: a classic Victorian in an upscale historic Atlanta neighborhood. But they’ve hardly begun to unpack when the home’s former owner knocks on the door, bluntly states the house was stolen from him, and gives them three days to leave or else. He utters some kind of weird chanting and makes odd hand gestures before Len shuts the door on him; and Len thinks: “Voudou? Nah, no such thing.”

Regardless, secure in the knowledge that their purchase of this foreclosure was legal and aboveboard, the Bowdens ignore the old man. After that, I assume bad stuff started happening, but I quit reading at around page 80. Why? Len was wimpy and hid nekkid RIP 9 Portraitpictures of his college girlfriend (who wasn’t Olivia, by the way) in the bottom drawer of his desk. Olivia treated her husband like she thought he was stupid and wouldn’t tell him why she was so afraid when Len described the chanting and gestures made by the old man. This marriage has severe communication and trust issues. And while that might be realistic, in this setting it made for two extremely unlikeable people. So, when I don’t like either of the main characters, and the story isn’t good enough to tolerate unpleasant people, it’s time to bail. And that’s exactly what I did. 1 star.

Want to read more R.I.P. IX progress posts? Click that badge over there to go to a whole list of them!

R.I.P. IX — What I’ve read so far…

RIP 9 Peril the First
Constant readers may recall I committed to “Peril The First”, which means I pledge to read at least four books in the mystery, gothic, horror, dark fantasy, etc. genre between September 1 and October 31. At this point in the challenge, I can safely say, “Been there, done that.” Books read and finished so far in this challenge total 14. I’ve sort of been concentrating on books in a series recently. I’ll give mini-reviews of just a few here. You can click on the book covers to read the full review.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar ChildrenHollow City

Hollow City was read as part of this challenge. I’m including its predecessor here (but not in my challenge count) because you can’t read one without the other. Picking up immediately where its predecessor left off, Hollow City follows the further adventures of Jacob, Emma, and the rest of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children as they search for a cure for Miss Peregrine’s condition. Their search leads them to one timeloop and another, and ultimately to war-ravaged London during The Blitz, where they encounter more danger, not only from the bombs but from the hollowgasts and wights who have been pursuing them ever since they left Wales. Another cliffhanger ending left me scrambling to find out when the next book will be published. (Late 2015? Waaaaaaaaahhhh!!!! Who does this guy Ransom Riggs think he is? George R. R. Martin?)

The TalismanBlack House

The Talisman was a re-read, mainly because The Black House had been sitting on my bookshelf for several years (and through several moves), glaring at me with baleful eyes. I wouldn’t have felt right responding to that glare and picking it up without refreshing my memory and renewing my acquaintance with young Jack Sawyer and his epic quest through the Territories to find the Talisman and save his mother. As it turns out, a re-read wasn’t strictly necessary, because The Black House isn’t strictly a sequel. One could read it without having read The Talisman, although the story is richer if one has. The Black House catches up with Jack, now in his late 30s, after he left the LAPD and retired to rural Tamarack, Wisconsin. A child murderer has surfaced in this sleepy little village, and local law enforcement requests Jack’s assistance on the case. The murderer (who is revealed to the reader fairly early in the book) isn’t any ordinary human being. He’s a dark and twisted personality straight from the Territories themselves; only Jack’s forgotten almost everything that happened then. This novel has a shaky start, but eventually finds its feet and delivers a solid, satisfying read, and maybe even a happy ending for Jack.

WoolShiftDust

Wool was read before the start of the challenge, so it’s not included in the count. Its sequels, Shift and Dust, were read after the challenge started. These three novels, taken as a whole, constitute one of the most original SF/post-apocalyptic/dystopian scenarios I’ve encountered in a lifetime of reading. To preserve the joy of discovering them for yourselves (and to avoid spoilers for anyone who hasn’t read them), I’ll give you the set-up for Wool only: Several thousand people live underground in a self-sustained silo. No one goes outside because the world is poison. No one knows why or when the world was poisoned; they only know “the gods” did it; and anyone who expresses a wish to know more is granted that wish and sent outside to die. Then Juliette is appointed sheriff; in this position, she becomes privy to certain information previously unknown to her, and she begins to suspect there’s more to the ancient stories than she’s been told. RIP 9 PortraitGood stuff, people. Really. You should read them. By the way, if you’re an Amazon Prime member and have a Kindle, you can borrow them free of charge through the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library program. No, Amazon doesn’t pay me for this plug: I’m just that impressed with the selection in their lending program.

Stay tuned for another blog entry about a few more of the books read for R.I.P. IX, coming soon! And click that badge over there to be taken to a list of many more blog entries about this reading challenge.

Book review: Salvation City by Sigrid Nunez

Salvation CitySalvation City by Sigrid Nunez
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Before we get started, let me clarify the two-star rating….Salvation City is not poorly written, has believable characters in believable situations, and is an interesting way to spend several hours. But ultimately — and given the way Goodreads’ ratings criteria are defined — two stars and “it was okay” is all the enthusiasm I can muster. I’d read a three-star “I liked it” book again. I have no desire to read this one again.

In the near future, 12-year-old Cole Vining has been orphaned by a flu pandemic more devastating than the 1918 outbreak. After a stint in the hellhole of a public orphanage, he is taken in by Pastor Wyatt and his wife Tracy and brought back to Salvation City, Kentucky, the small evangelical Christian enclave where they live. The overt religiosity of his new surroundings is completely foreign to Cole: his father was an atheist and his mother was a non-practicing Jew; as a result, Cole has had no religious training whatsoever. Emotionally fragile after his own illness and loss, in this new atmosphere, Cole questions everything his parents had ever taught him about the world.

Cole suffered memory loss as a result of his illness and, as his memories gradually return, he wrestles with a multitude of overwhelming emotions: loss, anger, bewilderment, confusion…but chiefly guilt. He feels guilty he survived, guilty he can’t return the obvious love Pastor Wyatt and Tracy express for him, guilty and disloyal at feeling any kind of affection for them, guilty for wondering if his parents went to Hell as his new knowledge of religion teaches. On top of all this, he has entered puberty with its attendant urges and feelings, and he develops an unrequited crush on his erstwhile cousin Starlyn. Cole’s journey through this morass of guilt and emotion to arrive at a peaceful self-understanding and sense of place is well-drawn and satisfying.

Again, this is not a bad book, and not a waste of time. The pacing is leisurely, almost majestic. It’s beautifully written, with a spare elegance and delicate touch. Nunez portrays the fundamentalist Christian community with grace and compassion, seeing it almost entirely through Cole’s adolescent eyes. I enjoyed reading it, but not enough to keep it around for a re-read.

Many thanks to Goodreads Giveaway Program for the opportunity to read this book.

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