The restless conclusion of The Road to Nowhere trilogy, set generations after a virulent disease killed most men and even more women, making women a precious commodity and childbirth a hazardous enterprise.
Flora, a transwoman raised as a sex slave, tells her story from essentially two points of view: as an old woman writing her autobiography after many years of residence on Bambritch (Bainbridge) Island near Settle (Seattle) as an invasion looms; and as a younger woman continuing the plot from The Book of Etta (2017), sprinkled with memories of her difficult childhood and adolescence. Having killed the Estiel (St. Louis) warlord known as the Lion, the survivors of his harem have taken somewhat uneasy refuge in the underground town of Ommun, a matriarchal Mormon community led by Alma, whose many successful pregnancies and supposedly divine visions have led her followers to believe her a prophet. Flora; her lover Alice, a skilled herbalist and occasional abortionist; the transman Eddy, Flora’s unrequited love and one of Alice’s other lovers; and a small group of followers reject Alma’s theocratic governance and return to the world above, where they search for somewhere that will allow them to live without the threat of slavers and rigid expectations of gender and sexuality. The market is currently flooded with dystopias in which women are valued for their breeding and rarity as sexual receptacles, where the divide between women and men has grown and the definition of gender is more rigidly reinforced. This series, and this book in particular, refreshingly argues that despite violent opposition, an imbalance in the number of women and men might offer more freedom for some to make their own definitions of gender, sexuality, and selfhood and that even in a world where fertility is damaged and pregnancy a risk, one doesn’t need to devote oneself to having or facilitating the having of babies to be valuable. If the story has a flaw, it is the author’s penchant to suddenly introduce a meaty bit of plot just before the book ends and then quickly conclude without fully exploring it.
A thoughtful extrapolation of contemporary gender and sexuality issues in need of wider discussion and understanding.