Title: We Are Unprepared by Meg Little Reilly
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
Meg Little Reilly places a young couple in harm’s way—both literally and emotionally—as they face a cataclysmic storm that threatens to decimate their Vermont town, and the Eastern Seaboard in her penetrating debut novel, WE ARE UNPREPARED.
Ash and Pia move from hipster Brooklyn to rustic Vermont in search of a more authentic life. But just months after settling in, the forecast of a superstorm disrupts their dream. Fear of an impending disaster splits their tight-knit community and exposes the cracks in their marriage. Where Isole was once a place of old farm families, rednecks and transplants, it now divides into paranoid preppers, religious fanatics and government tools, each at odds about what course to take.
WE ARE UNPREPARED is an emotional journey, a terrifying glimpse into the human costs of our changing earth and, ultimately, a cautionary tale of survival and the human spirit.
We Are Unprepared by Meg Little Reilly is a thought-provoking novel that delves into the effects of climate change and the various reactions of people living in a small Vermont town who are preparing for a catastrophic weather event. Written in first person from relative newcomer Ash’s perspective, the story also focuses on his rapidly disintegrating marriage to Pia as they deal with the impending disaster in completely different ways.
On the cusp of hearing the alarming news about the upcoming weather season, the only issue Ash and Pia are facing is distressing news from their recent appointment with a fertility specialist. Before they can fully absorb the unexpected diagnosis, Pia shifts immediately into disaster planning mode while Ash takes a more relaxed wait and see approach to the alarming weather forecast. As the months pass, Pia’s erratic behavior is just as unpredictable as the weather as she becomes more entrenched with the local “preppers” who distrust the government and fall into the gloom and doom category. Ash, on the other hand, is slow to react and relies on local government problem solving to hopefully minimize the damage to the community from the impending cataclysmic storm. With each of them on such opposite ends of the spectrum, the cracks in their marriage begin widening and by time The Storm hits, their once happy union is on the verge of collapse.
Ash has happy memories of his idyllic childhood in a Vermont town similar to the one where he and Pia now reside. On some level, he always knew he would return to a less hectic life in a rural town and they have barely settled into their farmhouse when the weather becomes the focus of their lives. Ash has always embraced Pia’s quirks and her somewhat neurotic behavior but since she has not yet found a job to give her days more structure, she is soon obsessed with prepping for The Storm. The traits Ash once found endearing and essential to Pia’s creativity, he now recognizes as most likely symptoms of an undiagnosed mental disorder and he grows impatient with her erratic behavior and somewhat illogical ideas.
Not only do the couple disagree over preparations for the storm, but they also clash over Ash’s unexpected desire to become a foster family for their neighbor’s neglected seven year old son, August. He is completely charmed by the imaginative young boy whose love of nature reminds Ash of himself as a child. Hoping to save August from becoming lost in the foster care system, his suggestion to foster the boy is met with resistance from Pia and she stubbornly remains opposed to the idea. This is just one more major difference that widens the gap between them but it is not until The Storm and its aftermath that he figures out what he wants in life. Whether or not Pia is on the same track as Ash remains to be seen so their future remains uncertain for much of the story.
With a realistic and unique storyline, We Are Unprepared is an engrossing novel about the effects wrought by impending disaster. Diverse reactions along with philosophical differences between preppers and local government provide readers with an insightful and informative viewpoint of the various ways to handle such a calamitous storm that could, theoretically, happen at some point. Meg Little Reilly presents an intriguing scenario about the all too real effects of climate change and the disastrous impact this can have on weather systems. An unsettling but riveting debut that I highly recommend.