cover image Clean Air

Clean Air

Sarah Blake. Algonquin, $25.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-64375-106-1

Blake’s fascinating, idiosyncratic second novel (after 2019’s Namaah) constructs a haunting postapocalyptic world with which a withdrawn woman must finally come to terms when someone starts killing local families. In 2032, trees began producing more pollen than human bodies could handle, killing billions of people. Ten years later, the survivors of what’s called the Turning carefully navigate a world where it’s not safe to be outside for more than seconds at a time. Among them is Izabel, who meanders through her days feeling vaguely dissatisfied with life with her husband, Kaito, and four-year-old daughter, Cami. When Cami develops inexplicable sleep issues around the same time a serial killer starts slashing the plastic sheeting enclosing nearby homes and letting in the toxic air, Izabel ends up in the best position to solve the mystery, following clues in the phrases Cami mutters in her sleep. The novel’s tone is restrained, sometimes verging on mannered, which belies the gradual but effective accumulation of emotions and images. The skillful blend of postapocalyptic science fiction, supernatural murder mystery, and domestic drama is unexpected and entirely engrossing. (Feb.)