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By Roger Wall
Publisher: University of Alaska Press
Release date: May 15, 2019
When During-the-Event, also known as D.E., was born, the small North Dakota town where he lived was nearly entirely wiped off the face of the planet. His grandfather and he were the lone survivors. Now they live in a cave near the town and occasionally make trips back for supplies. It’s a very solitary existence that’s only going to get even lonelier after his grandfather dies 17 years into D.E.’s life.
Even without his sole relative, D.E. knows he can survive because that’s how he’s been raised. What plants are safe; how to trap the few animals in their area; when it’s safe to go outside — he knows it all. The real question is, does he want to keep living the same way or leave this existence and discover what else might be out there? He opts for the latter and this book is a chronicle of what happens and who he meets as he sets out.
As I began reading During-the-Event, all I could think of was The Road and the solitude endured by the two protagonists in that story. But During-the-Event just didn’t grab me quite as much as Cormac McCarthy’s classic post-apocalyptic tale.
As sympathetic as D.E. should have been, I didn’t really have any emotional connection with him at all. The beginning of the book felt stunted, as though several chapters were cut out and we were dropped right in the middle of a story already in progress and it left me scrambling to catch up on the two characters I did not know at all. The ending felt equally abrupt, like so much more could have been told. In fact, my favorite group of people who D.E. meets are the ones at the very end who were only in play for the final 10 pages of the novel.
I feel like this book could have been so much more.
From the publisher…
For D.E., only two certainties exist: his grandfather is dead and life will never be the same.
During-the-Event is a dystopian adventure that roams across a fallen United States, introducing an unforgettable cast of characters along the way. In the near future, climate change has ravaged the United States, leading the government to overcorrect through culls and relocation. Those who survive the mandated destruction are herded into â€œhabitable production zones,â€ trading their freedom for illusions of security. The few who escape learn quickly that the key to survival is to stay hidden in the corners of the country. For seventeen years, During-the-Event, or D.E., has lived free in a pastoral life with his grandfather in North Dakota. But when death reaches their outpost. D.E. is forced on a journey that will change his lifeâ€”and reveal surprises about his past.
Once taught that strangers are only sources of pain, D.E. must learn to trust the people he meets on his journey. During-the-Event is a soaring coming-of-age story that grapples with achingly familiar issues: coming to terms with loss and loneliness, finding what our identities really mean, and searching for love in an often strange and bewildering world.