A family fleeing rapidly degenerating social order caused by world-changing volcanic eruptions finds respite and new heart in this well-crafted sequel to Memory Boy (2001).
Driven from their comfortable home outside Minneapolis in the previous episode by increasingly brutal hard times and a rising tide of lawlessness, the Newells have taken refuge in an isolated cabin in the north woods—knowing that they have to adapt to radically changed living conditions, and also to keep from being identified by local residents as homeless “Travelers” to be hustled along, or worse. Fortunately, eighth-grader Sarah and her equally urbanized, floundering parents have big brother Miles to lean on, with his tough, commonsense outlook, ready shotgun and a photographic memory stocked with information on living off the land. But they can’t always be dependent on him, as they discover when he is sidelined by a devastating injury. Weaver paints a realistic picture of life without electricity or plumbing, from the constant labor required to keep the wood pile stocked to killing and dressing a deer. And, even more compellingly, in the Newells’ contacts with others, he portrays a society in which some struggle to maintain cherished values and stability while others succumb to increasing suspicion, parochialism and desperation.
Sobering, thoroughly credible and, ultimately, optimistic about the chances of our better natures triumphing when the going gets rough. (Science fiction. 10-13)