In a suburb of Columbus, Ohio, Ann Brooks faces the greatest challenge of her life--or so she thinks. Her husband Peter, a University wildlife researcher, decides their attempts at keeping their marriage together are not working and he's going to leave. This tragedy quickly seems insignificant when Peter discovers that a pandemic has hit the United States.
In order to survive, Peter moves back home, and the Brooks family learns just how far they will go to survive this horrifying nightmare.
I've mentioned this to people several times now, but when I finished reading THE THINGS THAT KEEP US HERE, I decided I'm saving all my money in order to buy solar panels for my home! Carla Buckley created a scenario so realistic, readers can't help but mentally inventory their own lives to figure out just how--or even if--they would survive the pandemic themselves. And that is just in relation to food stores and energy. If that isn't the sign of an effective story-teller, I'm not sure what is.
Then Buckley throws in ethical questions and situations. No win challenges where her characters are forced to choose. As readers we're often at the advantage of having a lot of extra information over the characters and we can always see the "right" choice when we're separated from the situation. Buckley writes her novel in such a way that it's no more a simple choice for the reader than it is for the character. She will challenge you to think about what choice you would make and in the end, there is no "right" choice, just choices with different outcomes.
The other major strength of THE THINGS THAT KEEP US HERE is Buckley's creation of empathetic characters, which is in turn essential for connecting with the situation. As readers are able to see themselves as Ann or Peter, the Brooks' predicament becomes that much more real...and terrifying.
THE THINGS THAT KEEP US HERE also dances with some societal issues and astute readers may come away with some uneasy feelings about the kind of societies we have built in modern America. How would this plot differ in places as close as Canada or Mexico? Or in Third World countries that lack the money and resources America has. Readers can't escape with book without seeing their own spheres in a whole new light.
I'm a little late in the game getting to THE THINGS THAT KEEP US HERE. The upside of that, Carla Buckley's next book is out in December. Rest assured, it won't take me as long to read that one!
THE THINGS THAT KEEP US HERE is available in hardcover from Delacorte Press (ISBN: 9780440245094), in trade paperback from Bantam (ISBN: 9780440246046) and on unabridged audio from Random House Audio, narrated by Kimberly Farr and Abby Craden (ISBN: 9780307715470).