A Gift Upon the Shore

M. K. Wren, Author Ballantine Books $18.95 (375p) ISBN 978-0-345-36341-1
Unsparing but ultimately hopeful, this elegiac novel, set in the near future, traces the first generations to survive nuclear war and ensuing plagues. Writer Mary Hope and Rachel Morrow, a painter, eke out a meager existence at a farm on the Oregon coast. As they struggle through the Long Winter following the End, as the nuclear disaster is simply called, their desolation is succeeded by a determination to collect and preserve for a new civilization the great books of Western culture. Down the coast is another set of survivors, the Arkites, a fundamentalist group that denies all knowledge not contained in the Bible. Mary marries and briefly joins the Arkites but leaves after the leader calls Rachel a witch. Years later, when plague strikes the Arkites, Mary agrees to take in the few survivors on condition that she be allowed to educate the children as she sees fit. A bitter struggle develops between Mary and a strong-willed young Arkite for the minds of the children, particularly the boy destined to lead the next generation. Wren's (the Phoenix trilogy) post-nuclear world rings true, as do her compelling depictions of the subsistence-level daily life--the triumphs, the losses and the desperation. ( Mar. )
Reviewed on: 01/30/1990
Release date: 02/01/1990
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