Sela Gordon lives in a remote mountain town in Tennessee. She’s divorced, runs a general store and gas station, and lives modestly near her aunt and cousin. Ben Jernigan is former Special Forces who also lives in this resort community but chooses to exist in isolation off the grid, never interacting with any of the people in the town. However, he’s admired Sela and she him but neither have ever spoken to one another. When one of his friends from another state warns him (of course, by ham radio) that they are hours away from a catastrophic solar event (coronal mass ejection or CME), Ben visits Sela’s store for last minute supplies and suddenly decides to warn her. She has a choice whether to believe him and prepare or chalk it up to his weirdness. She makes the fortuitous decision to hedge her bets and behave as if his information is correct, which in the coming months served her well after the CME destroyed the power grids around the world.
Well, it’s not a virus but this event is a global one that destroyed the life as everyone was accustomed to living. It was fascinating to contrast the behaviors of those who understood preparedness with others who were quite clueless. Many of the people living in this town were used to living off the grid from time to time because of harsh weather events where they’d lose power or access to stores to get provisions. What I loved about the story was how the unlikeliest stepped up to the challenge and provided leadership. In times of crisis, you’ll see the best and worst of behaviors and that was strongly presented here, rather authentically. Sela emerges as the one with the steady hand and head, quietly steering the community in the right direction, figuring out how to manage chaos into some semblance of a new normal.
I enjoyed the story as it was timely in the midst of what we’re currently experiencing. Though a different event, the reactions and feelings are relevant to the times. I’ve read a couple of other stories involving “preppers” recently and they’re not seeming so strange these days. Ben is one of them and while his past demons drove him to separate from the rest of the world, I respected his decision and liked that it was a struggle for him to reengage at Sela’s request. Their relationship was definitely a slow burn but I liked that aspect, too. The narrator was new to me and I thought she did a wonderful job distinguishing a host of characters and not over dramatizing a dramatic story.
There are suspense elements but they present later in the story with sort of a predictable outcome. However, the heart of this story is the strong theme of community that resonated mightily within me. I needed to see and feel this at this moment. It’s a good story with lots of interesting characters who will inspire you to do better.
- Release Date: March 31, 2020
- Narrator: Melissa Moran
- Audio Length: 11 hours, 37 minutes
- Publisher: HarperAudio
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(Thanks to HarperAudio for my complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.)