4 of 5 stars
Included in After the End: Recent Apocalypses edited by Paula Guran, this short story startlingly depicts a social breakdown. The landscape is reminiscent of a zombie-less Walking Dead. For our two initial refugee travelers, Jane and her 13 y.o. daughter Franny, the maxim is fear the living. Having already abandoned their gas-less car weeks prior, the two females are nearly defenseless and living a tense life on the edge while trying to make their way across the US to the promised land of Toronto with its rumored social services still functioning.
The landscape is littered with homes, cars and businesses that have already been ransacked or burned out. Around any corner could await a male prepared to take advantage of Jane, or worse, her daughter. More than one scene vividly paints the panic that keeps many a modern city-dwelling female from walking alone in certain neighborhoods at night. In particular, a stripped convenience store found to have five guys lounging inside will pause even male readers who have never felt that primal fear.
Franny is regressing into a helpless, skittish child not made for this new world. A fellow traveler, Nate, seemingly proves trustworthy enough to share the road. For Jane, a male travel companion (in the form of Nate) is insurance. The story is hers and it’s how she deals with the society in which she finds herself. As a former teen runaway, she has the grittiness and instincts to survive without a net. She is willing to compromise her assets to get that which she needs. Her loyalty to and trust in others is her bargaining tool.
The landscape is terrifying. Jane is surprising, all the way to the end.
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