I would probably never have found this but someone on Yelp (yeah, I know) suggested that we start a book club and I really like book clubs. I quickly downloaded it to my Kindle and got comfy, only to later find out that I wouldn’t actually be able to meet with the book club because I’d be on a train at the time. Nevertheless, it turned out to be very much worth a read.
I managed to read it without ever having come across a blurb or synopsis and without ever having discussed it with anyone. So I was very surprised by the book it turned out to be. It starts with an actor, playing the role of Lear on stage somewhere in Toronto, having a heart attack and dying. The next thing you know is that an extremely virulent and deadly flu virus has apparently spread across the globe, decimating the population.
The structure of the book is such that the chapters flick back and forth between the past and the future. Sometimes it goes to the night of the play, or before that with the actor’s life and his family and friends when he was younger. Sometimes it skips forward a little way into the future, or up to about 15 years into the future and there it follows the survivors for a while.
Most of the characters were connected to the actor in some way. We see the life of the paramedic who jumped onto the stage to try to save him. Or the child actress who was playing an infant version of one of Lear’s daughters. Or his childhood friend, or his son. Some of these characters are also connected by a series of comic books that the actor’s first wife had worked on.
It’s an interesting take on the apocalypse. It makes me feel like the break-down of society suddenly makes the world very big again, but the connections the people had before it broke down can still make it feel small sometimes. It also struck me that this is the most positive book about an apocalypse I’ve ever read in that it’s very forgiving of its characters, recognising that people in difficult situations will have to make difficult decisions and celebrating the simple achievement of surviving in that kind of world. It manages to not be too bleak.
I’d recommend it to almost anybody and it could easily be one of those books I end up buying many copies of to give to people as gifts.