In an undefined, but not too distant, future America is a cold, hard place. Cities and families are torn apart by natural disasters and a rising tide of violence. Only the wealthy, sheltered within their “communities” have access to amenities: education, medical supplies, fresh food and water, electricity and Internet.
In the beginning Frida and Cal are alone in the wilderness braving the elements to forge a new future far from their violent pasts. Encounters with another family of survivors brings more questions, but comfort as well: They are not alone. Curiosity—and an sudden, urgent need—drive them from the relative safety of their encampment, and straight into the shared history they left behind.
This is a plot driven novel, and the story is riveting, but I don’t care as much about Cal and Frida as I could; their relationship feels a little contrived. Lepucki does a nice job introducing the tensions of their past, but doesn’t use them to flesh out her characters, who feel flat. The type-face is large, making the book appear heftier than reality. She has so many story lines crowded together, surrounded by so much empty white space, and not one of them is quite convincing enough.
Lepucki is sharp however, and makes interesting observations about humans interacting in extreme situations, deciding what matters most: community, family, or simply survival. She does suspense well, and every once in a while she hits on a nugget of truth, or a particular phrase that rings with undeniable clarity and force. She makes a reference to the posthumous publication of a Franzen novel, and generally plays on our worst fears for the future with light touches of humor and compassion, demonstrating an active involvement in her growing understanding of the human condition.