Thursday, December 15, 2011

Book Hungry's December Offering: LIFE AS WE KNEW IT

Every once in a while a book comes along that profoundly affects how you view the world around you, the people in your life, and your own strength of character.  For me, that book (or rather books, as--me being, well, ME--I just had to read the two 'companion' novels that went with it) was this month's Book Hungry selection, chosen by our very own Abby

The Book(s): LIFE AS WE KNEW IT (book #1); THE DEAD AND THE GONE (book #2); THIS WORLD WE LIVE IN (book #3)
The Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer
The Publisher: Graphia

The premise for this novel is simple, and yet it isn't.  An asteroid hits the moon, knocking it into an entirely new orbit, one much, much, much closer to Earth, triggering a cataclysmic shift in global climate, seismic activity, and completely altering LIFE AS WE KNEW IT.

I have to admit that as much as I love, love, LOVED this book, it also scared the bejesus out of me.  Why?  Because this could actually happen, like RIGHT NOW. 

The setting, the buildup, the actual scene in which everyone is outside watching the asteroid hit the moon.  It's all completely plausible, and it's also believable that the scientists who predicted the hit to be small and inconsequential to be way off base in that estimate.  Then, the aftermath.  Whew.  First the thunderstorms and tornadoes.  Hearing on the news about the massive tsunamis ravaging the far off coasts, the earthquakes, and then the volcanic eruptions whose ashclouds completely obliterate the sun. And, that's just Mother Nature's reaction to the asteroid.  Add to that, the mass panic, the severe shortage of food, the mass scavenging, and the desperation as people slowly waste away to nothing.

The second book, THE DEAD AND THE GONE occurs in tandem with the first, only it's from the perspective of devout Catholic, Alex Morales who lives in NYC with his parents and younger sisters.  I won't lie.  This one is much bleaker than the first, considering the first took place in a rural town where Miranda's family was isolated and thus somewhat sheltered from many of the horrors occurring in this new and devastating world.  Alex not only had to step up when both his parents go missing and care for his two younger sisters, but he also had to deal with depraved depths that humanity can sink into all the while tenaciously clinging to his faith.

And, the third book, THIS WORLD WE LIVE IN brings the two families together, answering the question you definitely have of "What happened next?"  I have to confess that upon finishing the third book, I again asked that question.  Mostly because I'd become so invested in those characters, that I could read sixteen more books about their trials and tribulations.  Although, I might be emotionally wrung out from it all afterwards.

So, right about now, you're probably thinking, "These books just sound completely hopeless.  No thank you." 

My response: They are anything but hopeless.  Yes, they are terrifying.  Yes, the characters are brutalized over and over and over again, in a relentless, take-no-prisoners kind of way, whether it's from the weather or from other humans. 

But, here's the thing, minions.  They survive.  They endure. 

With Miranda's family, they band closer together.  They look out for each other.  They each realize that the only thing that matters is that they are together.  No matter what.  In fact, at the beginning of LIFE AS WE KNEW IT, I kind of didn't like Miranda.  I thought she was selfish, but she evolved throughout the book, growing from this whiny, spoiled child into a woman willing to sacrifice herself on the altar of her family's well-being.

In THE DEAD AND THE GONE, Alex journeys along a similar path, going from being a student whose biggest worry was whether he'd get elected junior class president to fighting for his and his sisters' lives.  The things he has to do, the decisions he has to make are harrowing, but he mans up, doing whatever he can to keep his family alive, all the while maintaining a tenuous hold on his faith.

Yes friends, you will find hope within these pages.  It's in the sacrifices made by the characters to ensure the well-being of those they love.  It's in the determination to survive in world so devoid of anything good.  It's in the resilience of the human spirit and the strength these people find to do whatever needs to be done. 

In all honesty, I'm not so sure I'd be as strong or resilient in the face of such overwhelming adversity.  Lucky for me (well, depending on how you look at it), I live in the land of nothing but coastlines, so I probably wouldn't make it past the first wave of tsunamis (unintentional pun here, but let's go with it), should this ever happen.  There's a comforting thought, huh?

So, what about all you fun folks?  Have you read these books?  How did they make you feel?  Or if you haven't read them yet, have I scared you out of (or into) reading them?  Do share!

Until next month when we take a look at something a little lighter, AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES by the illustrious John Green.