Hard-shelled, career-minded Greta is the newest and least likely member of a sustainable foods cooperative house in Madison, Wisconsin. Shortly after she joins Karin and Hal in their stately residence near campus, the husband Greta left appears on their porch, drunk, and the reason for her sudden appearance becomes clear. Yet the house members already have plenty to occupy them: a series of summer blackouts has unearthed a disquietude lurking just under the surface for each of the three residents. Gas is dwindling, electricity is unreliable, and the natural world around them is in upheaval. The uneasiness of the environ ment mirrors that of Greta, Hal, and Karin as they each make efforts to resolve their own personal crises. With subtle attunement to the hovering uncertainty affecting each of her characters, Wildgen crafts a story both terrifying and beautiful.
Three housemates find themselves in the midst of an eerily plausible energy crisis in Tin House senior editor Wildgen's solid second novel (after 2006's You're Not You). Greta moves into Hal and Karin's Madison, Wis., housing co-op to escape her marriage to an alcoholic, only to have him show up on the porch. Hal works for the nonprofit Southern Wisconsin Food Initiative (SWFI), while Karin is an assistant editor, and Greta is a fund-raiser for Grinwall College. Amid a worsening recession where gas is largely unavailable and the entire city loses power the housemates each struggle with personal crises, and an investigation into a possible drowning at the nearby lake only increases the sense of impending doom. Hal's mother recently died and he worries about a drop in food donations to the SWFI; Karin is threatened by Greta's arrival, fearing it will disrupt her platonic relationship with Hal; and Greta struggles to distance herself from her husband, Will. Wildgen skillfully shifts between the key players, focusing simultaneously on social and interpersonal issues. With its open-ended conclusion, the novel allows the characters' lives to resonate beyond the final page.