The Things That Keep Us Here

Carla Buckley, Author
Carla Buckley, Author . Delacorte $25 (406p) ISBN 978-0-440-24509-4
Reviewed on: 10/19/2009
Release date: 02/01/2010
Paperback - 417 pages - 978-0-440-24604-6
Paperback - 474 pages - 978-1-4091-1733-9
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-299-08422-3
Open Ebook - 978-0-440-33915-1
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-307-71548-7
Paperback - 406 pages - 978-1-4091-1308-9
Hardcover - 406 pages - 978-1-4091-1307-2
Hardcover - 520 pages - 978-1-4448-0536-9
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A timely premise can't quite compensate for structural deficiencies in Buckley's lackluster debut novel. Ann Brooks and her family have anticipated the possibility of pandemic avian flu for months; Ann's estranged husband, Peter, after all, has been researching the mysterious illness at his university research job. When the flu—with a near-50% fatality rate—closes in on the Columbus, Ohio, home where Ann and her two daughters live, Peter and his exotically beautiful Ph.D. student, Shazia, move in to pool resources, but desperation grows as heat, food and water dwindle, and the threat of death looms (sometimes literally) on their doorstep. Although pseudoscientific reports and news bulletins add to the novel's “ripped from the headlines” feel, emotional revelations are handled less skillfully. A tragedy in Ann and Peter's past, after numerous veiled allusions, is finally revealed in an unsatisfying throwaway in the epilogue. The third-person narration squanders the tensions among Ann, Peter and Shazia, resulting in flat and unsurprising epiphanies. Although Buckley raises important questions about trust, loyalty and forgiveness, the narrative flaws detract from the overall effect. (Feb.)

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