Can a Vermont couple, recently transplanted from Brooklyn, survive the worst weather disaster in recorded history?
Ash, 35, is newly arrived in Isole (pop. 6,481) with Pia, his beautiful but highly neurotic wife. They have given up lucrative urban careers to “grow things and build things, preserve things and pickle things,” and otherwise live authentic lives. But three months after their move, U.S. authorities announce that a natural disaster, referred to as The Storm, is on its way, in the form of “as many as thirty named tropical storms and hurricanes,” plus “likely heat waves and drought, and even severe blizzards.” The stressed-out populace slowly sheds “the thin veneer of civility,” and Ash and Pia’s marriage predictably begins to unravel. The Storm is slow moving, though; the public finds out about it in September, but it doesn’t arrive until spring. By that point, 19 chapters into the book, the reader is eager for the damn storm to occur. The two by then hate each other. It’s not surprising—they spend almost every waking hour together in this thinly populated book. Only August, a neglected neighborhood boy whom Ash comes to care for and love, and Maggie, a comely fellow Isoleen he covets, come alive. The Storm is an all-purpose metaphor: the apocalypse; climate change; and, most of all, the powerful forces that tear marriages apart. Debut novelist Reilly, a former official in the Obama White House Office of Management and Budget, makes a rookie mistake and reveals on the first page of the book that the narrator survives the deluge. By the last page, soaked readers are unlikely to care.
With so many dark clouds and heavy-handed portents, you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.