A reporter is given the ability to alter time, but her attempts to save lives create increasingly dire alternate histories in Skillingstead's (Life on the Preservation, 2013, etc.) latest offering.
Olivia Nikitas' life is covering the news, especially war zones. Cynical and skeptical, she doesn't expect to fall in love with aid worker Brian Anker—and she certainly doesn't expect to gain superhuman powers. But in war-ravaged Syria, Olivia stumbles across a dying old man named Jacob and becomes the unknowing inheritor of his power as a "Shepherd": the power to change timelines. Instinctively, Olivia uses this power to save Brian's life, triggering a ripple effect that alters the world. Unaware of this, Olivia returns to America with Brian, but their ever-after is quickly broken...first by a weaponized smallpox outbreak and then by Olivia's abduction. Held captive by Jacob's "Society," a disbelieving Olivia first learns about the Society's mission to avert major crisis points—and learns that by saving Brian, she has triggered one. To stop the pandemic, Olivia has to intentionally choose the original timeline: the one where Brian died. One hitch? Most of the Society wants to kill her to produce a more conventional (and male) Shepherd. With the help of Dee and Alvaro, two sympathetic Society members, Olivia escapes and reunites with Brian, but the pandemic is worsening, and Olivia tries to alter time to fix it. In her desperation to avoid losing Brian, Olivia makes things worse in successively darker timelines. Olivia struggles to save the world without sacrificing the man she loves—and learns the dark secret behind the Society's probability machine.
The horrifying but mundane end(s) of the world are rendered with powerful bleakness—making moments of human tenderness and kindness shine all the brighter.