If it's true that everything happens for a reason, it's also true that sometimes that reason is buried deep beneath the enormity of the event. For thirty-year-old Zoe, the near extinction of Homo sapiens has no obvious purpose. Even more puzzling for Zoe is why someone seems to be actively stalking her, even though it's the end of the world.
The dystopian landscape of Alex Adams's White Horse is frightening—not because there are aliens or zombies but because it seems so absolutely possible. The imagined world after the disease dubbed white horse spreads across the globe is eerily familiar.
Adams has Zoe tell her story by alternating between an unspecified "then" and "now," until the two finally meet. It's a technique that can be difficult to do, but Adams pulls it off in spades. The style keeps us guessing and filling in the blanks until we finally understand what drives Zoe, and the fragments begin to solidify into the whole.
A primary reason for the novel's success is Zoe. She is so completely ordinary that it's easy to relate to her. She isn't some kind of female MacGyver, but neither is she without resourcefulness. We sympathize with her struggle to balance her humanity and sense of self with her fierce desire to survive. And, of course, we cannot help but wonder what we'd do in her situation.
White Horse is the first in a trilogy, and although this book ended on a satisfying note, the last sentence (as other reviewers have mentioned) is a doozy. Where Zoe ends up next is hard to predict, but I'm along for the duration.
You might be surprised that I'm recommending White Horse as a good book club pick, but there are a number of issues that readers will want to discuss. Topics include the likelihood of a white horse–like disease happening in reality, what you would do in Zoe's situation, the nature of relationships under stress, and the meaning of humanity. One final point: Although much dystopian fiction seems to be written for a young adult audience, White Horse is an adult book about adult themes and with adult characters.
I listened to the unabridged audio edition (Blackstone Audio; 10 hr, 15 min) read by Emily Durante, who is an experienced audiobook narrator. Her expression and ability to distinguish not only among characters but between Zoe then and Zoe now are fabulous. I was totally immersed in the story, and I'm sure my positive experience with White Horse is at least partly thanks to her.
Published by Simon & Schuster / Atria/Emily Bestler Books, 2012
Source: Review (print), bought (audio) (see review policy)
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