Another strong book. This one’s set in a near to very near future, a very slouching apocalypse. In the background terrible things are happening (hinted at or alluded to throughout the book), and terrible things happened before. The heart of the book, though, is about small communities and withdrawal.
The two POV characters begin in the wilderness of a largely depopulated future. They begin well aligned, two against the world, struggling in primitive conditions and savoring the small victories. The world of the beginning is no Eden… except against the corrupted world revealed in flashbacks and (especially) going forward as they explore.
The ambiguity of the decline (which, especially at first, is presented as mostly a people give up and opt out future) keeps you invested in figuring out how the world went wrong. The obvious pieces, which show up in the politics of both the past and future, is a grasping withdrawal from the commons of the wealthy. A lot of the book pivots about memories of movements to fight back against that withdrawal and the complexities underlying even small villages.
I keep dancing around revealing the plot threads, though these are almost entirely just to keep track of what I’ve read. Long story short, this is a slow built complex feeling world. For such small communities, there’s a lot of tricky relations and histories to work through…
Frieda and Calvin really work as authentic characters in a world that feels realistic–a future like “another couple of years down the wrong path…” The ebb and flow of the couple’s relationship and trust also rung true. Honestly well done, though bleak.