Tuesday, October 20, 2009

October 20, 2009: Things That Keep Us Here

Overcast with a pinch of cold. The trees are brilliant. Even with the rain and wind over the last few days, the leaves are still attached to their branches. Our neighbors have the most exquisite red bushes on their hillside. I don't think I have ever seen a red that color in nature. I have pictures; I should figure out how to load them in to show you. It's foggy up on the hills and kind of quiet. Sunrise was at 7:36, Sunset is at 6:11.

We got our every-other-month "white box" from the American Booksellers Association yesterday. Everyone gathers around and watches as the tape is slit and the cardboard wings are opened, ready for that moment when these new, not-yet-published books are exposed.

Emily took the new Elizabeth Gilbert book, Robert picked out the book about Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and I decided on a book, out of the big pile of things I want to read, called The Things That Keep Us Here, by Carla Buckley.

I have been reading only young adult books for weeks, now, in preparation for a book talk I'm doing on Friday and I have been looking forward to reading anything else. The Things That Keep Us Here looked like a good one to start with. I like books that draw me in right away, and I really like science and science fiction/speculative fiction. I started it on my afternoon break and did NOT want to stop reading. I took it to the gym and read while I did my cardio workout and then read late into the very early morning to finish it.

It could have "ripped from the headlines" emblazoned on the cover. It's the story of a family falling apart at the same time the world as they know it is ending. A flu pandemic carried by birds has begun circling the world, following migratory flight routes. As the flu infiltrates the United States, it follows the Mississippi river with the birds. Panic sets in and people begin to ransack stores and steal gasoline from their neighbors. Ann and Peter, parents of two girls, have to figure out how to survive a winter of severe rationing and fear.

What was really interesting about this book was seeing how quickly our society could fall apart when we are faced with such a calamity. How many of us have fireplaces and know how to lay a fire? When the stores run out of bread, would we be able to subsist on something like hardtack? Would we know what hardtack even is? What happens when the people who run the electric substations and water systems die? How do you get to a hospital when you can't get gasoline? Would you share your food, your bottled water, your house?

It was scary, what with the H1N1 flu in such high profile right now, reading something that seems so realistic and able to happen. It was good, but I am going to avoid crowds for awhile.

(Good for grown-ups with some teen crossover interest. Fans of Douglas Preston will enjoy it. Delacorte. Hardcover, $25.00. Available February, 2010.)

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