Everything seems quiet on Ann Brooks’s suburban cul-de-sac. Despite her impending divorce, she’s created a happy home and her daughters are adjusting to the change. She feels lucky to be in a supportive community and confident that she can handle any other hardship that life may throw her way. But then, right before Thanksgiving, a crisis strikes that turns everybody’s world upside down. Suddenly her estranged husband is forced back onto her doorstep, bringing with him his beautiful graduate assistant. Trapped inside the house she once called home, confronted by challenges she never could have imagined, Ann must make life-or-death decisions in an environment where the simple act of opening a door to a neighbor could jeopardize all she holds dear.
The choices she makes will impact the lives of those around her irrevocably and linger in the reader’s memory in this marvelous first novel, written with authority, grace, and wisdom.
BONUS: This edition contains a The Things That Keep Us Here discussion guide.
A timely premise can't quite compensate for structural deficiencies in Buckley's lackluster debut novel. Ann Brooks and her family have anticipated the possibility of pandemic avian flu for months; Ann's estranged husband, Peter, after all, has been researching the mysterious illness at his university research job. When the flu with a near-50% fatality rate closes in on the Columbus, Ohio, home where Ann and her two daughters live, Peter and his exotically beautiful Ph.D. student, Shazia, move in to pool resources, but desperation grows as heat, food and water dwindle, and the threat of death looms (sometimes literally) on their doorstep. Although pseudoscientific reports and news bulletins add to the novel's "ripped from the headlines" feel, emotional revelations are handled less skillfully. A tragedy in Ann and Peter's past, after numerous veiled allusions, is finally revealed in an unsatisfying throwaway in the epilogue. The third-person narration squanders the tensions among Ann, Peter and Shazia, resulting in flat and unsurprising epiphanies. Although Buckley raises important questions about trust, loyalty and forgiveness, the narrative flaws detract from the overall effect.
The Things that Keep Us here.
A compelling, dare I say terrorizing, read.
The main character, Ann, sees her world grow smaller, and more frightening as she realizes the flu Pandemic has taken up residence in her small hometown block of houses.
She watches as her best friend deserts her baby at Ann’s door, and leaves him , somehow sure that her dearest friend could NEVER leave an infant outside to die a horrid, painful death. But it is Ann’s husband who brings the baby in. Both of Ann’s young girls rear him.
The truly terrorizing denouement came when all the laws of civility went out the window, and chaos and the basest instincts of humanity are ripped are.
This painful scenario seemed, to me, completely believable and eerily prescient for the times in which we live.
Best friends can become villains when trust no longer exists, and in the vacuum of lawlessness, chaos happily reigns.
In “The Leftovers”, author Tom Perotta penned a similar novel of huge numbers of death around the world with no real explanation as to what really happened.
But those left behind suffered dearly, simply in other ways. I saw this in Ms. Buckley’s The Things That Keep Us Here - the survivors live, begin again, but life is Never the same.
How could it possibly be?
Read, read, read!!!
This book is a must read. For once, here is a book that is actually as good as it sounds in the description. Beautifully written and unpredictable, you won't be disappointed.