Turn Off the News and Read

With the world gone mad, reading can be a relief from the news.  Last night I turned to an old favorite by Lois Lowry, The Giver, with its ambiguous ending of hope for a dystopian world.  Then, I read Michael Faber’s Under the Skin, a chilling tale yet curiously connected to civilization.  Published in 2000 and later made into a movie, the story is better if you have not heard of its premise, and I won’t spoil it here, but clearly not everyone is as they seem.

Reading books about how horrible the world has yet to become makes today seem not so bad – despite the dire ramblings of politicians and pundits.   Sometimes listening on Audible makes the misery more palatable and the hope for a changed future more possible.  Two I have on my iPhone to keep me properly alert  –

  • Station Eleven

615t54nnUzL._SL150_“…offers comfort and hope to those who believe, or want to believe, that doomsday can be survived, that in spite of everything people will remain good at heart, and that when they start building a new world they will want what was best about the old.” from the Sigrid Nunez review for the New York Times

  • California

61QRlMVfpeL._SL150_“…Perhaps the world as we know it will indeed end this way for many Americans: terrified of porcupines, longing for the sound of S.U.V.s, unable to ­distinguish between an artifact and a keepsake, helped to find temporary sanctuary by the last black man on earth. If it does, we won’t be able to say that “California” didn’t warn us.”  from Jeff Vandermeer’s review for the New York Times.

If the apocalypse is upon us, books have already outlined what we can expect.

Son by Lois Lowry

Although dystopian future worlds seem to have become popular recently, Lois Lowry has been writing about them for years. If you are a fan of The Giver, you may remember Jonas and his flight to Elsewhere, with a baby boy designated to be destroyed. If you have not read Lowry’s book (or can’t remember its plot), you can still enjoy the drama of the boy’s mother, in her quest to find her boy in Son.

Claire’s world is that amazing futuristic utopia with controlled climates, no insects or rodents, designated jobs (including Claire’s as Birthmother) – emotionless, disciplined, and well-ordered. No anomalies are allowed. Expecting to continue with her new duties in the fish hatchery, after failing to deliver her baby naturally, Claire is surprised that she has feelings for her new-born (someone forgot to give her the pills for impassivity). When she finds her baby in the care facility, he is not conforming well – seems he doesn’t like naps and wants to be held.

On the eve of her son’s fate, he disappears with Jonas, and Claire mysteriously manages to board a freighter ship, fall overboard, and is rescued. Finding herself suddenly in a new world, Claire at first becomes a mystifying heroine, becoming an apprentice to the old woman healer and midwife. Her memory returns when she is assisting in a birth, and her focus becomes finding her son.

The book switches to Claire’s quest – her preparation and training to climb the dangerous mountain that will lead her out of the village and hopefully to the man who will take her to her son – for a price. Lowry details her training, from one-handed push-ups to slippery runs with rocks in her backpack. Her trainer is Einar, a young man, now crippled from his unsuccessful attempt to get out. Her actual climb is thrilling; Lowry will have you gasping at each slip of foot, drop of the glove, and the attack by a mother gull protecting its nest.

After Claire makes a deal with the evil Trademaster, she finds her son, now a young man who is yearning to learn about his roots. But Claire’s trade has left her unrecognizable.

Lowry ends the tale with a satisfying triumph of good over evil, and with a rewarding reveal for her fans who wondered about the fate of Jonas and Gabe.