Meg Little Reilly places a young couple in harm's way--both literally and emotionally--as they face a cataclysmic storm that threatens to decimate their Vermont town, and the Eastern Seaboard in her penetrating debut novel, WE ARE UNPREPARED .Read more...
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Meg Little Reilly places a young couple in harm's way--both literally and emotionally--as they face a cataclysmic storm that threatens to decimate their Vermont town, and the Eastern Seaboard in her penetrating debut novel, WE ARE UNPREPARED.Ash and Pia move from hipster Brooklyn to rustic Vermont in search of a more authentic life. But just months after settling in, the forecast of a superstorm disrupts their dream. Fear of an impending disaster splits their tight-knit community and exposes the cracks in their marriage. Where Isole was once a place of old farm families, rednecks and transplants, it now divides into paranoid preppers, religious fanatics and government tools, each at odds about what course to take. WE ARE UNPREPARED is an emotional journey, a terrifying glimpse into the human costs of our changing earth and, ultimately, a cautionary tale of survival and the human
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-07-04
- Reviewer: Staff
In her debut novel, Reilly offers a timely and terrifying, if at times heavy-handed, vision of impending climate-change-triggered devastation, both environmental and interpersonal. In their mid-30s, Ash and his wife, Pia, feel they’ve outgrown the self-conscious artifice of their hipster lives in Brooklyn. So they retreat to Ash’s native Vermont, purchasing a secluded woodland home and embarking on what they hope is a simpler life. But the couple’s personal worries and disputes over failing to conceive a child soon pale in comparison to their much deeper conflicts prompted by a looming weather event dubbed simply the Storm. Pia feels great kinship with the local survivalist “prepper” movement, while Ash puts his faith in the systems set up by his newly reclaimed community. After months of increasingly bizarre and unpredictable weather, the couple’s relationship (not to mention their respective preparations) are put to a dramatic test. Although the narrative tends to lapse into preachy philosophizing, the situations Reilly describes seem unsettlingly plausible (even if the meteorologists of the near future seem to possess uncannily prescient forecasting skills). Ultimately, Ash’s story points to human connection, rather than radical isolationism, as the key to surviving a crisis, a message that will uplift readers. (Sept.)
Surviving the storm
Some readers will open Meg Little Reilly’s novel and come to certain conclusions about the starring couple. Ash and Pia are from gentrified Brooklyn, but when the book begins, they’ve fled to Vermont, Ash’s natal state, in an attempt to live more “naturally.” Since the book is narrated by Ash in hindsight, we learn he’s survived a storm that makes Superstorm Sandy look like a breezy day at the beach. At last, some may think, the yuppies get theirs.
The problem with this schadenfreude is that the nice, solid, longtime citizens of Isole, Vermont, also get theirs when this storm hits. Even before the apocalypse—and Reilly is masterful at keeping this meteorological monster offstage until the right time—the ties that bind this little community begin to unravel. Ash and Pia’s marriage begins to fracture under the sheer stress of waiting for something to happen.
Neither Ash nor Pia is particularly embraceable, but Reilly has created likable secondary characters: Peg, the nature-loving scientist neighbor; Crow, the hippie/survivalist/loner; Maggie, the doughty schoolteacher; and August, the half-wild boy whom Ash befriends. Suspense comes from wondering who will survive and what the world will look like once this storm has come and gone.
Though writers have long warned us about what happens when humans mess with nature in general and the weather in particular, We Are Unprepared might be in the vanguard of tales that deal with the consequences of human-caused climate change. As such, it is an admirable example of the genre.