Monday, December 1, 2008

Book review

I am an official worry wart.  I used to lay awake at night worrying that an earthquake would come and pin my nieces and nephews under dressers and bookshelves.  An entire semester of 8th grade science I spent worrying about a situation in which, during an earthquake, I climb into one of the built-in cabinets that line the walls of my science room in order to avoid falling debris and end up locked in the cabinet forever.  Because, you know, I should have been under my desk instead of locked in the cabinet, so who would look for me in the cabinet?  It makes me claustrophobic just thinking about it.


Anyway. When I found Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer, I immediately started reading it.  The premise is this: life on earth gets changed when an asteroid hits the moon, causing it to move closer to the earth.  Whole cities are buried in tidal waves.  Electricity and phone service are knocked out.  Giant volcanoes bury cities and fill the skies with ash, blocking out the sun.


Within all of this, a family in small-town Pennsylvania try to live in this new world.  They navigate the local grocery store during a pandemonium of panicky people buying any food they can lay their hands on. They chop down trees to stockpile wood to burn during the long cold winter.  They skip meals and fast to make their meager canned foods last longer.  Told through the eyes of a 16 year old girl, you see how limited humans still are in the face of environmental calamities.


This book made me realized how unprepared my family is if anything happened.  With a Wal-mart down the street, everything seems to feel safe, until I think that Wal-mart may not be open anymore, or if the shelves are empty.  Without a woodburning stove or fireplace, how would I heat my house and keep my family warm if the gas company went out?  Even if I did have a fireplace, I don’t have a forest conveniently nearby in which to chop down trees.  What to do when gas is $50 for 3 or 4 gallons? It is a frightening scenario, and, while it’s unlikely the moon is going to move, it reminds me that a cataclysmic event could find my family totally unprepared to survive.


Despite this gloomy outlook, I couldn’t put this book down.  I had to know what happened to both the world and the family voicing the book.  It showed me how many holes are in our best-laid plans, and how easily our civilization could fall to pieces.  Because what do computers and cell phones mean if there is no power to run them?  And what good will they do us when there isn’t anything to eat or drink?  For as far as we have come technologically, without food, water, warmth, or the ability to survive the flu, we aren’t that far ahead of the cavemen, are we?  Scary.


So, just in case you wondered – I bought a few extra cans of everything I needed at the grocery store the week I finished this book. Fireplace or not, I’ll do what I can to survive!


Amy Sorensen said...

Oh, I'm SO glad you liked it! It puts the idea of a calamity in such clear images that it really does stay with you. I've been buying more food storage since reading it, too, and have worried about the heating thing. Often, really. They never would have survived if they lived in suburbia instead of out in the country.

There's another book by the same author, this one set in New York (remember there were tsunamis there?) but I've not read it yet...gotta wait until I can deal with more panic.