Wednesday, January 02, 2008
The Dead and the Gone
Pfeffer, Susan Beth. 2008. The dead & the gone. (June 2008)
The dead and the gone is the much-anticipated follow up novel to Life As We Knew It. Though the characters and setting are different--New York not Pennsylvania--the terror and uncertainty of future days is the same. Our narrator is Alex Morales, an older teen (perhaps 17?), whose world is about to be turned upside down. While there was set up in Life As We Knew It, the dead and the gone begins with the BIG event. Wednesday, May 18... At the moment when life as he had known it changed forever, Alex Morales was behind the counter at Joey's pizza, slicing a spinach pesto pie into eight roughly equal pieces. (1). Of course, at that moment, Alex doesn't know that. He's just your average teen. His mom was a nurse called into work that evening unexpectedly. His dad was out of the country attending the funeral of Alex's grandmother. His older brother, Carlos, is away from home and in the Marines. Thus when the calamity happens, it is on Alex and Alex alone to protect his family--his two younger sisters--and begin the fight for their ultimate survival.
In Life As We Knew It, no matter how bad it got, Miranda, the narrator, could relax a bit. Her mom was there for her and her brothers. Her mom was there to tell her what to do. There to make a plan. There to support her, comfort her, and yes, at times to annoy her. But Alex, Briana, and Julie. These three siblings have to face the unknown alone. It's not that they're completely alone, the dead and the gone introduces the element of faith and community in the midst of disaster, but without parental guidance, support, and love. Imagine being that age when the world starts to crumble. When the volcanoes and epidemics start. To know that the world will never be the same again. To know that if humanity is to survive this at all, it will be only a few, only the strongest, only the bravest. There is no safe place anymore. There is no reassurance, no promise of a better day, a brighter day. Now imagine being the caregiver of not one but two younger sisters. Sisters who'd fall apart without you. Sisters who are depending on you, trusting in you to provide for them, to protect them. Alex bears a heavy burden. Not only is he fighting for his own survival, he's fighting for the lives of his sisters.
As for his parents, his extended family, his friends and neighbors and classmates, too many are listed as "the gone" their final fates unknown in this captivating companion novel. While Life As We Knew It showed the private battle of one family for survival, the dead and the gone captures the story of a neighborhood, a community. I'm not sure whether to be surprised or not, but one thing that intrigues me is the element of faith and religion in this novel. When so many elements of society are falling apart, are crumbling, the Catholic church is strong and resourceful. They're not abandoning their flocks. They're a place where the faithful can come to rally, to rebuild their strength, regain their focus. They are actually providing for the needs of others. It's not that they're selfless. But they haven't forgotten the message of Christ either. They are living out the compassion of Christ who said...in this world you will have trouble, but I leave you my peace. That's what I see their mission as in some ways, caring for the physical and spiritual needs of the faithful. They can't stop the bad things from happening, they can't "solve" any problems. But they can be there, they can provide solace and peace for those who feel so downtrodden, so troubled.
Those who have read Life As We Knew It, will know that this is an intense novel. That it will leave you cold and hungry and a bit anxious of full moons. The dead and the gone is a companion novel to Life As We Knew It, but it stands alone. You don't need to have read Miranda's story to embrace this one. Alex's story is just as intense, just as strong, just as captivating, just as memorable. However, I would encourage everyone to go ahead and read Life As We Knew It in the months leading up to the release of the dead and the gone. There are so many memorable scenes, memorable passages that whether you read the book or listen to the audio, it is sure to haunt you.
You may read my review of Life As We Knew It here and here.
You may visit the author's blog here.
Other reviews of the novel are here, here, here, here, and here.