Awakening in a bleak landscape, Cass Dollar vaguely recalls enduring something terrible. Having no idea how many daysor weekshave passed, she slowly realizes the horrifying truth: her daughter, Ruthie, has vanished. And with her, nearly all of civilization. Instead of winding through the once-lush hills, the roads today see only cannibalistic Beaterspeople turned hungry for human flesh by a government experiment gone wrong.
In a broken, barren California, Cass will undergo a harrowing quest to get Ruthie back. Few people trust an outsidermuch less one who bears the telltale scars of a Beater attackbut she finds safety with an enigmatic outlaw, Smoke. And she'll need him more than ever when his ragged band of survivors learn that she and Ruthie have become the most feared, and desired, weapons in a brave new world .
Littlefield (A Bad Day for Pretty) turns what could be just another zombie apocalypse into a thoughtful and entertaining exploration of many themes, including genetic engineering, social collapse, and motherhood. Cass, a young mother and recovering alcoholic, awakens filthy and gashed in the California wilderness, with no memory of the past several weeks. She believes she's eaten a plant that turns its victims into Beaters, or zombies; her recovery is inexplicable. An enigmatic, charismatic man named Smoke agrees to escort her for the last stretch of her journey home to find her daughter, and what begins as a four-mile hike through Beater-infested terrain becomes an odyssey through fragments of civilization devastated by war, plague, and anarchy. Littlefield has a gift for pacing, her adroit and detailed world-building going down easy amid page-turning action and evocative, sensual, harrowing descriptions that bring every paragraph of this thriller to life.