Wednesday, 2 July 2014

The Things that Keep Us Here by Carla Buckley (3.5/5)

First published: 2010
Page count: 472

The back says: It begins with a dead bird. Then state-wide school closure. Before long, the whole town is in lockdown and the Brooks family are quarantined in their own home - with a faceless enemy on their doorstep.

They must cope as best they can, battling hunger, cold and boredom. But as the threat inches closer, and neighbour turns against neighbour, single mother Ann doesn't know who she can trust - including those taking refuge in her house.

With no end in sight, Ann knows that if she is to protect her daughters from untold danger, she must make impossible decisions in order to survive...

I say: This was very a fast paced and easy read, chockfull of information in the first part of the novel, which is when we are still unsure of how great the threat is. Of course it turns out to be pandemic bird flu that is airborne, causing all families to stay quarantined in their houses. Neighbours suspiciously stay clear of each other and we witness how soon-to-be divorced Ann, her two daughters, estranged husband, and his PhD student try to cope with being locked inside a house for an unknown amount of time.

The kids bicker, the adults go through the motions and I found the majority of their little dramas tiring.

The most interesting aspect of the story was the virus itself and the choice that Ann ultimately has to make; it made for the type of philosophical ponderings that I love. However, I feel that it was about 150 pages too long because Buckley kept veering away from the essence of the story to add small pockets of unnecessary suspense that I could have done without.

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