cover image American Afterlife

American Afterlife

Pedro Hoffmeister. Crooked Lane, $28.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-63910-134-4

A powerful earthquake in Eugene, Ore., has left Cielo, the teenage narrator of this impressive thriller from Hoffmeister (Too Shattered for Mending as Peter Brown Hoffmeister), scrounging for food and supplies in demolished and abandoned homes, steeling herself against the sight and smells of the ubiquitous human remains. The initial absence of any relief efforts and of any adults she can trust makes even a minor injury life-threatening. Cielo is also bent on finding her missing Mexican immigrant mother, who has allied herself with a cult, the Collection of Redeemed Souls. Her mother was drawn to the group’s halcyon promises that its followers would be raptured before the world’s tribulations into a new Earth, whose streets would be paved with gold. Cielo must search for nutrition, water, shelter, and her mother while dodging members of the Collection, who are searching through the devastation for people they can compel to join them. Hoffmeister doesn’t pull any punches as he gives new life to the familiar premise of a lone protagonist struggling to survive in an apocalyptic landscape, and expertly uses first-person present narration to convey a sense of immediacy. This is a masterful, intelligent page-turner from a talent to watch. Agent: Yishai Seidman, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary. (Dec.)