This is a book I’d been wanting to read for ages. Usually this is the absolute death-knell of me actually liking said book, but in this case expectation actually matched outcome.
So, the premise is that America has totally embraced a fundamentalist belief system led by a dodgy old corporate businessman where the rights of women and the LGBT community have been all but wiped out.
Good job it’s fiction, eh? Imagine if that happened in real life.
Anyway, the Church of America (TM) basically runs the whole country and their leader, Beaton Frick, has predicted a rapture, where the souls of the faithful will be taken up to heaven. Despite her abundant cynicism, Vivian discovers that her parents may actually have been raptured and sets off with her best friend Harp to discover the truth.
What ensues is basically a post-apocalyptic road trip, which is, if not a cliché, then definitely a trope, but it’s actually a lot more clever than other post-apocalyptics. Sure there are looters and plenty of people wishing to do our heroes harm, but there’s a lot of discussion about belief; not so much about what we believe, but why. There’s criticism, not of religion per se, but of fundamentalism. What makes a cult like this suddenly go crazy? Are humans inherently sheep when it comes to thinking for themselves? Or do you need a perfect storm of social and financial deprivation combined with a super charismatic leader to pull something like this off, a la Nazi Germany?
(Incidentally, was I the only one who was wondering what was happening in Canada while all this craziness went down in the US? I mean, the whole world looks at Canada and the US as basically the Straight Guy and the Crazy Liability Dude, manacled together by forces beyond their control, forced into an uneasy alliance and with their fates inexorably linked, like Bruce Willis and Kim Basinger in Blind Date, Steve Martin and John Candy in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Spencer Tracey and Katherine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby. No? Just me?)
I really liked Vivian - she showed enormous development over the course of the book, and her budding romance with Peter was super cute. But for me, the real star of the show was Harp, a girl so cool I want to be her in my next life.
Definitely recommend this book - it really lived up to my hopes.