An Excellent, Unexpected Read
If you go into this book expecting the usual dystopian fodder (one terrifying attempt after another just to stay alive… or to find other survivors… or to save what’s left of humanity), then you’re not going to like this book. And I’ll admit, that’s how I started out, based on the novel’s premise. But then something interesting happened…
I found myself on a parallel journey to the protagonist herself–letting go of the past; letting go of expectations; living from one breath (or one paragraph) to the next; letting the characters be who they were, instead of who I wanted them to be.
And then I became fascinated by the story in a whole new way.
It’s really a story about loss, and about living with that loss, on so many levels. It isn’t about stopping the plague. It’s about when the plague wins. And what comes after. It’s a human story about surviving the unthinkable, and then trying to re-imagine life as something different–not as a step backward, and maybe not as a step forward either…
In a way, it’s a book about learning how to step through life without making that kind of judgment in the first place. Without being tormented by what was, or by what might have been.
In fact, this book is so much about that, that it gets a bit heavy-handed in the moral-of-the-story department here and there, but I’m giving it five stars anyway because the theme is one that the protagonist is genuinely dealing with. Her thoughts are true to her character, so the real problem was not that I didn’t like the story, but that I didn’t like the character sometimes.
She’s broken inside, and not just by the plague. She struggles with her past. Like a real person. Sometimes she overcomes it, and sometimes she doesn’t. Like a real person. And sometimes she ends up in uncomfortable situations that she can’t quite figure her way out of. Like a real person.
In essence, Corlett has created a character so real that I actively disliked her from time to time–before remembering the things I did like about her, forgiving her for being human, and moving on. I related to the character as though she were a real person. Which is, in my opinion, the book’s greatest draw.
So don’t go into this story expecting dystopian fiction. It is a story about survival–but it’s more about emotional survival than physical survival. Read it for what it is–read it for that–and you will love this novel.