The Boy At the End of the World

After the world finally destroyed itself, a lone boy woke up from a survival pod to find the remnants. With the company of a broken-down robot he names Click and a genetically modified mammoth he names Protein, Fisher begins his journey to find another human being and start the world over in Greg van Eekhout’s young adult science fiction story – The Boy at the End of World.

Similar to Elizabeth Speare’s coming of age tale of a Native American boy in Sign of the Beaver, van Eekhout has his hero, Fisher, facing the wilderness, living off the land, and overcoming adversity. In this futuristic setting, however, some of the animals have morphed into mechanical monsters and the land is renewing itself from the devastation of wars, abuse, and possibly nuclear after effects.

Unlike Cormac McCarthy’s depressing The Road, van Eekhoot offers hope for the future and the tools to survive. Fisher, programmed with instincts for survival and the knowledge of an experienced fisherman, with the help of his companions, overcomes obstacles and fights off potential threats of marauding computerized insects and machines. In the end, the world has a chance for a new start with its hopeful, talented, and moral new Adam.

Both boys and girls will enjoy the adventures, and adults will recognize the warnings of what the world could become if they don’t change their ways. The Boy at the End of the Word is well a written and thoughtful yet thrilling story.

The Cove

Ron Rash offers a tale of misery, poverty, backwoods superstition, mystery, and romance – encased in a slow-moving Southern Gothic tale set in Appalachia at the end of World War I in The Cove.  Although the story is stretched into novel length, the plot is secondary to the descriptive language and the characters’ struggles to survive.

The story opens with a Tennessee Valley Authority inspector finding a skull in an old well, just before the cove will be buried under the water of the new dam.  After this teaser, the narrative reverts to 1917 and slowly unravels around the lives of the three main characters in the gloomy cove.  Laurel and Hank Shelton barely manage to sustain a life on their farm after their parents’ death.  Although Laurel had the potential to become a teacher, she dropped out of school to nurse her ailing father; her purple birthmark labels her a witch with the local community, and her life is isolated and lonely.  Hank has returned from the war a hero who is missing a hand, and hopes to eventually start his own family – away from the cove.

Walter finishes the triangle.  When Laurel finds him comatose in the woods from bee stings, she nurses him back to health, and hopes he is the answer to her yearning.  Walter, who is mute and plays the flute, has a shady past – Rash cleverly hints at prison, wanted posters, and the Germans.  When Laurel discovers his identity, the pace of the story changes.

The war and the local community’s prejudice and fears play an important role in the story. Chauncey Feith, the cowardly wealthy army recruiter, who inspects the library stacks for subversive books and harasses the college German professor, feeds the bias of the local folk with suspicion and innuendo. Rash uses historically accurate references with the inclusion of the German luxury cruise liner, Vaterland, marooned in America when war was declared, and later converted to the American warship Leviathan.

“The ‘Vaterland’ band played jolly shoreside concerts in order to raise funds for the German relief effort, and such Anglophobes as William Randolph Hearst attended charity balls on board and donated generously.”  … excerpt from The Great Liners

Walter’s secret is the key to the mystery, and the ending is startling.  But if you like your mysteries fast-paced with clear clues, the solution may not come fast enough.  Ron Rash, a professor of Appalachian Cultural Studies, has a style that has been compared to Steinbeck and Cormac McCarthy. The poetic journey and the cadence of the language carries the reader into the desperate lives.  It took me a while to get into the rhythm, but once I did, I was anxious to find out if my speculation was correct.  I was still surprised at the end – and glad I had persevered.

Top Ten Books – An Author’s Inspiration

Asked to list her top 10 favorite books, the author of The Apothecary named her inspiration – more than 10.  Have you read any of these classics?  What books are in your top ten?

  1. The Collected Stories of John Cheever
  2. Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger
  3. Appointment in Samarra by John O’Hara
  4. The Art of Burning Bridges(biography) by Geoffrey Wolff
  5. A Book of Common Prayer by Joan Didion
  6. Run River by Joan Didion
  7.  As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
  8.  Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  9. Edie: An American Girl by Jean Stein
  10.  Parallel Lives: Five Victorian Marriages by Phyllis Rose
  11.  The Border Trilogy, by Cormac McCarthy
  12. Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
  13. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  14. American Pastoral by Philip Roth