Title: The Dead and the Gone
Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer
Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books): “Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life as We Knew It enthralled and devastated readers with its brutal but hopeful look at an apocalyptic event–an asteroid hitting the moon, setting off a tailspin of horrific climate changes. Now this harrowing companion novel examines the same events as they unfold in New York City, revealed through the eyes of seventeen-year-old Puerto Rican Alex Morales. When Alex’s parents disappear in the aftermath of tidal waves, he must care for his two younger sisters, even as Manhattan becomes a deadly wasteland, and food and aid dwindle.
With haunting themes of family, faith, personal change, and courage, this powerful novel explores how a young man takes on unimaginable responsibilities.”
Thoughts: Touted as the second part of the “Life as We Knew It” series, The Dead and the Gone is really more of a companion piece to the first novel. Readers expecting the story to continue suddenly find themselves reading about the same events but in different parts of the country and from a completely different perspective. It is an unusual twist to a trilogy which will upset some, while others will relish the chance to discover how other parts of the country dealt with the event and its aftermath. The regional reactions and their differences provides the reader food for thought on what life might be like in his or her area should something like this occur.
Having heard complaints about the lack of action in the novel, I was prepared to hate it. Rather, I feel this is Ms. Pfeffer’s point. The lack of action indicates an inability to do so, which is a frightening prospect. It also highlights the fact that society does not break down in a day. The slow demise of society makes action moot. More importantly, the slow descent into horror makes that horror more palpable.
While I could relate to Miranda in Life as We Knew It, I struggled with Alex in The Dead and the Gone. It was difficult for me, as a strong-willed, independent woman to relate to the male dominance of a teenager in a Hispanic family, especially when the narrator gives no thought at all to taking a nap while his sisters are forced to do all of the cooking and cleaning. While I completely understand it is a cultural difference, I do not necessarily have to like it. Honestly, I found it difficult to stomach at times.
In all, I still need to work on prepping that supply room as a worst-case scenario. Too many post-apocalyptic novels have me seeing the merit of storing a year’s worth of food and having a wood-burning stove available. I am more curious and interested in how the final novel ties the first two together. I’m also intrigued to see if society gets slightly better after a year or what the conditions are in yet another part of the country. Overall, the moon moving closer to the Earth is a frightening yet plausible scenario and the after-effects as rendered by Ms. Pfeffer are scarily realistic. I continue to be a fan of this series and hope to finish the third novel soon enough!