This book is very well written, but I found it very difficult to read. Let me explain. This story takes place in 2020. During the Covid19 pandemic. The author has brilliantly captured the uncertainty, the fear, the indecision, the worry, the panic, etc. It’s actually so well captured that it was difficult to read.
I don’t tend to consider myself someone who needs to read trigger warnings for books, but I did rather feel triggered by this book. And I live in New Zealand, where the pandemic has been very well handled, to the point where we have zero community transmission at the moment, even as other countries around the world are still in lockdown, still dying… If I could be triggered by this, and I barely had to endure any of the horrors that came along with Covid19, then how would an American or a Brit feel when they read this?
I feel bad for the author, because as I said, this book is very well written. The characters, soldiers Tristan and Casey, feel real and multi-dimensional. It’s no fault of the author that I struggled with this book. In fact, I guess it’s the opposite – if the book was poorly written, I could probably have shrugged it off and not let it affect me.
The scene where Tristan, and then Casey and Tristan both, go grocery shopping to stock up and debate whether they should buy extra because others are panic buying and they try to figure out if they’re adding to the problem by buying extra or being sensible by buying extra because the panic buyers will leave nothing on the shelves….wow, that was me. I remember having that debate with myself and my husband and our other family members. Do we stock up on toilet paper? Do we stock up on this, that or the other thing? Are we adding to the problem? Thankfully New Zealand didn’t run out of toilet paper like other countries did, and the only things we struggled to get our hands on were flour, hand sanitiser and masks. But I did find myself buying more pantry staples ‘just in case’. I bought things like soup mix and rice and stuff that wouldn’t go off, but that would ensure that we didn’t go hungry if the supermarket shelves were suddenly bare. And they weren’t, because I was lucky, but in some countries they were. And I understand that debate, 100%, of whether you are being sensible by adding a bit extra to your shopping cart or whether you’re exacerbating the panic buying problem.
I will say, the author did a great job of balancing the drama of the Covid situation (and of course the developing relationship between Tristan and Casey) with humour. Some of my favourite lines:
There wasn’t anything to argue about. But holy quiet resentment, Batman.
While I was reading today’s chapter, Tilly joined me on the couch and noisily licked her butthole. I glared at her. “Do you have any idea how hard it is to concentrate on” —I glanced at my book—“whatever this bullshit is while you’re doing that?” The look she gave me suggested she gave precisely no fucks.
I suspect that with a bit more distance between us and Covid19, this book would be more enjoyable. As it is, I kinda felt like I was there, and that wasn’t a place I wanted to be. Still, as I say, very well written, great characters, and I gave it four stars.