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Book Cover Image: The Things That Keep Us Here by Carla Buckley

Title:  The Things That Keep Us Here

Author:  Carla Buckley

No. of Pages:  392

First Released:  February 2010

Synopsis (Courtesy of B&N):  “How far would you go to protect your family?

Ann Brooks never thought she’d have to answer that question. Then she found her limits tested by a crisis no one could prevent. Now, as her neighborhood descends into panic, she must make tough choices to protect everyone she loves from a threat she cannot even see. In this chillingly urgent novel, Carla Buckley confronts us with the terrifying decisions we are forced to make when ordinary life changes overnight.

A year ago, Ann and Peter Brooks were just another unhappily married couple trying–and failing–to keep their relationship together while they raised two young daughters. Now the world around them is about to be shaken as Peter, a university researcher, comes to a startling realization: A virulent pandemic has made the terrible leap across the ocean to America’s heartland.

And it is killing fifty out of every hundred people it touches.

As their town goes into lockdown, Peter is forced to return home–with his beautiful graduate assistant. But the Brookses’ safe suburban world is no longer the refuge it once was. Food grows scarce, and neighbor turns against neighbor in grocery stores and at gas pumps. And then a winter storm strikes, and the community is left huddling in the dark.

Trapped inside the house she once called home, Ann Brooks must make life-or-death decisions in an environment where opening a door to a neighbor could threaten all the things she holds dear.

Carla Buckley’s poignant debut raises important questions to which there are no easy answers, in an emotionally riveting tale of one family facing unimaginable stress.”

Comments and Critique:  This was another LibraryThing Early Reader prize from Bantam Dell.  The timeliness of the subject matter cannot be ignored, and Ms. Buckley does a tremendous job of showing what could have happened (or may yet happen) with H1N1.  Given all the hype over that particular virus, the fact that I was reading about H5N1 rather than H1N1 was surreal but made the story that much more realistic.

I found the what-if scenario the most compelling part of the story.  Not only did I get an idea of what could happen during a pandemic, Ms. Buckley gives the reader ideas on how to prepare for future events.  I never considered the full implications on our infrastructure if a large portion of the population died or was forced into isolation and quarantine.  As a result of the story presented by Ms. Buckley, I am now contemplating changing my own state of preparedness for emergencies and crises.

Unfortunately, there is no doubt this is a debut novel.  While the story itself was interesting, the backstory is not well-developed.  In fact, I found myself guessing at the different pandemic phases mentioned throughout the story to understand the characters’ actions better.  Character development is also lacking, as I never felt what compelled each character to act the way he or she did.  While I understand that Ms. Buckley was trying to build suspense by not giving away the full story, there were holes left in the story that were never completely resolved and that prevented me from truly becoming enveloped in the story.

Overall, I am very impressed with Ms. Buckley’s effort.  The story itself is quite enjoyable and suspenseful in spite of the holes.  I liked it enough to pass it along to my husband and request that he read it as well.  I look forward to future efforts by Ms. Buckley!

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