cover image The High House

The High House

Jessie Greengrass. Scribner, $27 (240p) ISBN 978-1-982180-11-9

Two half siblings eke out their survival after an environmental catastrophe in the quietly devastating latest from Greengrass (Sight). In the near-future, a London scientist named Francesca travels around the world to study flooding brought on by climate change with her partner, whose 18-year-old daughter Caro watches Francesca’s toddler son, Pauly, Caro’s half brother. A nonlinear narrative reveals that Francesca has prepared a house on high ground in Suffolk for the family, complete with supplies and a vegetable garden to make them self-sustaining. After Francesca and Caro’s father drown in a storm in Florida, Caro and Pauly trek to the isolated home. There, they discover Sally, a young woman whom Francesca hired as a caretaker along with her grandfather, who remembers the last major flood in the area when he was a child. As Caro battles incapacitating grief and Sally grapples with the survival plan bestowed upon them, the world continues to disintegrate. Unlike other postapocalyptic tales, plot is secondary to the emotional weight borne by the characters who know the end is coming, and to the harrowing glimpses of the future as the house’s residents “do nothing but try to make sure that we will have enough to eat so that we might continue to do the same the next day.” Throughout, their gradual reckoning with their existence and the fate of the planet is made heartbreaking through Greengrass’s stunning prose. Painful and beautiful, this is not to be missed. Agent: Lisa Baker, Aitken Alexander Assoc. (Jan.)