3.5 out of 5 Hoarded Canned Goods for Life As We Knew It

Posted Dec 15 2011, 7:00 am in ,

This month, Book Hungry reviewed Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer.

Have you ever thought about what scares you? I don’t mean Hollywood frights like Jason or Freddy Kruger, or the things that make you squeal like a little girl. I’m talking about the things that worm deep into your soul and grip you on a visceral level and won’t let go. December’s Book Hungry pick, “Life As We Knew It” is a SCARY STORY.

I’d totally forgotten about this month’s book club reading. I’d just learned about the Chapter 11 news from American Airlines, my husband’s employer. I was fretting about job loss, extended unemployment, paying bills, and putting my kids through college. I had to accept that this will change our lives.

It’s a terrifying thought and I thought that was the only thing that could scare me… truly scare me.

Then, an email arrived, reminding me about this month’s selection. I downloaded the book immediately from the library, hoping to lose myself in a good story.  I started reading and was sucked in by the first chapter. Holy mother of God, this book scared the chocolate out of me.

Am I saying it’s a bad book? No. On the contrary, it’s an excellent book – well written, engaging characters and an emotional punch that feels like a train collision.  You guys know me by now – I’m all about the compelling story. This story is so compelling, I put the book down a changed person. For example, I vehemently support gun control legislation but now, I want to start storing guns and ammo in the swimming pool I plan to drain and turn into a bunker. You know, just in case.

Let me give you the summary: Miranda is a typical teen when the story begins. She’s the only daughter of divorced parents, dealing with homework, chores, her brothers, her parents, and her friends – just like every other kid her age. And then, an asteroid knocks the moon out of its orbit, unleashing a series of catastrophic events on Earth. First, the floods and tsunamis wipe away the coastal cities and all the oil rigs. Next, extreme weather changes occur – heat waves followed by killing frosts in August, volcanic ash blocking the sun. Soon, the food supply is almost gone. Written in journal format, Miranda details how life goes from “Cool, there’s no school today” to “If I’m going to die, I don’t want to die last.”

*shivers* My mind jumps to a scene from Young Frankenstein when Gene Wilder as Frederick shouts, “It. Could. HAPPEN!”

Miranda figures her family and friends are headed for extinction. But that’s not the really scary part. Miranda’s diary entries show the first thing that disappears when humans are faced with a life-changing event is our very humanity. Miranda’s mother takes them on a shopping trip to not just hoard everything that’s still on the shelves, but to keep it for themselves. She actually scolds Miranda for stopping to tell a friend food is being handed out at a playground instead of getting on the line immediately. Raised to show compassion, Miranda is horrified – and we along with her – by her mother’s merciless survival instinct.

That’s just the beginning. Police abandon their posts, dishonest merchants ration gasoline for $75 a gallon, gangs loot whatever stock still remains in stores, states close their borders. This is what frightens me so deeply, my flesh is goose-bumpy as I write this… that the certainty that life – the things which make us human like our compassion, our ingenuity, our intelligence, our humor, our very souls – could be altered in a finger-snap, not taken but surrendered – IGNORED! – before the first layers of cataclysmic dust settled, so that our bodies could survive for a few more measly days.

It makes me question if our humanity is just an illusion?

I’d rather swallow a fistful of pills after such an event to never, ever have to face this question. You’ll be interested to note I am no longer as worried about my husband losing his job. This book reminded me that life, as we know it, could change on a dime and forced me to be grateful for the blessings I do have. This book also made me selenophobic and that’s why I only gave it three and half hoarded canned goods.

Now, please excuse me while I go count what’s left of my inventory… you know, just in case.

Have you read Life As We Knew It? What did you think? In our discussion, I was surprised to hear a few members describe the book as ‘hopeful.’ Check out their reviews and tell me, did I miss the point?







5 responses to “3.5 out of 5 Hoarded Canned Goods for Life As We Knew It”

  1. Linda G. says:

    Sorry, but this one sounds all too plausible for my peace of mind.

  2. abby says:

    i love how you change the ratings system with each book. :)

    i totally agree with you that one of the more terrifying things about this book is the loss of humanity and just how quickly it goes… *shivers*

  3. GREAT review Patty. you hit the nail on the head with the loss of humanity under such brutal circumstances.

    *ducks head, raises hand* yes, I still stand by my statement that this book has a hopeful ring to it, but yeah, I can see why not many people would agree with me.

  4. Wendy says:

    Wow, sounds intense. I love those post-apocalyptic tales, although, I’m finding since the recession started they are harder to take. I think the last one I read was THE ROAD and boy was that one grim!!

    Thanks for doing such a thoughtful review!

  5. Hey there, I am a new author and I was really interested in this story so thanks for the review. I found your blog through Ethan Ellenburg’s site where I am submitting for my first novel, Eden’s Root. It is post-apocalyptic, but also plasuible (so I’ve been told by my readers) and it draws from my own experiences as a young cancer survivor…BTW, I am just starting this stuff so I have no idea if I am out of line or anything. just excited about writing…and my book. i heart it, but i suppose every author does. :) Thanks for the steer on this book!