Life as We Knew ItPosted: February 15, 2011
Life as We Knew It, by Susan Beth Pfeffer
When I told Cathy about this book, she graciously asked for a guest-blog review. I’m angling to be food storage fiction reviewer…if there is any other food storage fiction…
Miranda, your ordinary American teenager, worries about whether she’ll get a prom date—not about astronomy. But her life—and the world—change dramatically when a meteor hits the moon, moving it closer to Earth. The change in gravity sets off tidal waves and monster storms, killing millions and disrupting supply chains. Miranda’s family and her neighbors buy out the grocery store, plant gardens, and limp along…until the volcanoes start. Clouds of ash fill the air, cooling the earth and killing the gardens. Then come the riots, then the epidemics, then…well, you get the picture. Miranda has to develop the toughness to help her family survive, re-adjust her expectations for the future, and hold onto hope and gratitude as “life as she knew it” crumbles.
I enjoyed this book, while occasionally wondering why it was so compelling to watch the family spend day after day freezing and starving. Part of that, I think, was the wondering what I would do, what my family would do, if faced with the same choices. And part was watching them believably grow, and grow together. Perhaps because I’m the mom, my favorite line was from the mom on New Year’s Day, when they were huddled in a single room, eating one meal a day. She said that every year she resolved to lose weight and to spend more time with her kids. She’d accomplished both those goals, so now she was officially retiring from New Year’s resolutions.
I appreciated the author’s choice of cataclysm: she sidestepped the political and scientific disputes that, say, a nuclear war or man-made environmental disaster would have raised, by sending a plausible disaster from outer space. She includes some veiled political commentary, but it doesn’t dominate. I was also glad she pulled a couple of punches. For instance, the neighbors could have behaved much, much worse than they did, and no one in the family ever suggested they eat the cat.
Her treatment of religion annoyed me, though. The one church in town seems to be the Church of Deluded Fruitcakes. Everyone is so busy celebrating the “miracle” that they’re not helping others, or even remembering to eat. The minister, the only fat man in a starving town, acts like an evil cardboard cutout. I was so annoyed that I immediately read the sequel. The Dead and the Gone, which follows a Puerto Rican family in New York City during the same disaster, features a deeply religious family and a local Catholic church peopled with imperfect but real and honest priests and nuns. It should be interesting in book three when Miranda, who’s disgusted with religion, meets Alex, who’s depended on Jesus through the loss of his family and home.
Life as We Knew It is not a book that particularly supports Cathy’s no-guilt-no-fear approach to food storage. But if you’re feeling the need for a swift kick in the self-reliance pants, or just for a compelling read, you might want to check it out.
–reviewed by Lee Ann Setzer