In the aftermath of an abusive marriage, a woman’s search for peace forces her into a primeval new world.
After being shot by her abusive husband, Robert, Sarah Robinson moves to St. Louis with her two daughters, Jazz and Janie. Sarah, who suffers from PTSD, has violent nightmares. Regular meditative sessions with Asha, a Kenyan spiritual teacher, are her only respite. One of these dreamlike sessions leads her to confront the Storm that rages within her, and aided by Asha’s own inner white light, she summons her avatars—the Horse, the Bear, the Elephant, and the Tiger—and contains the maelstrom. Upon awaking, she discovers the Storm was real, claiming not only her teacher, but also buildings, roads, and all other trappings of civilization, replacing it with grassland and non-native flora and fauna. Men, women, and children are left frightened and naked in this new world, yet Sarah finds herself renewed, her animal spirits healing her and giving her supernatural strength and speed. Using survival skills learned from her mother and passed on to her daughters, the trio rallies other survivors into a makeshift “Family” of hunter-gatherers. But not all members of the Family are trustworthy, as Tony, a manipulative misogynist, seeks to become King and force Sarah into submission. Lips’ debut traverses a lot of ground and struggles to find its tone, starting strong with horrific imagery and uneasy suspense then meandering into survivalist tedium. The immediate aftermath of the Storm’s carnage is impressively frightening: The elderly’s pacemakers and prosthetic hips disappear, loved ones in basements are left sealed underground, and twisted bodies line what were once roads after all cars suddenly disappear. But the vigor with which Sarah embraces this new world and the heavy focus on the technical aspects of survival strategies make these early horrors largely forgettable. Magical happenings abound in the novel, and there is a charming whimsy to the way Sarah’s inner creatures become real. But as satisfying as this is, no other characters are explored deeply enough to have similar growth, making them props.
An uneven post-apocalyptic story that wavers between the usual depictions of survival and horror but doesn’t successfully integrate them.