What if the Gulf Coast became so battered by storms that the United States just gave up on it? Your choice: move above the Line and retain your rights or stay put and survive in the new watery frontier. For Cohen, who lost his family to the endless storm, there was never a thought of leaving home. Until there was.
It had been raining for weeks, maybe months. He had forgotten the last day that it hadn't rained, when the storms gave way to the pale blue of the Gulf sky, when the birds flew and the clouds were white and the sunshine glistened across the drenched land. It rained now, a straight rain, not the diagonal, attacking rain, and it seemed that the last of the gusts had moved on sometime during the night and he wanted to get out. Had to get out of the house, away from the wobbling light of the kerosene lamp, away from the worn deck of cards, away from the paperbacks, away from the radio that hardly ever picked up a signal anymore, away from her voice that he heard in his sleep and heard through the storms and heard whispering from all corners of the short brick house. It rained hard and the early, early morning was black but he had to get out.—Rivers by Michael Farris Smith (Simon & Schuster, 2013, p. 3)
- Setting: the not too distance future; Gulf Coast of Mississippi, in unclaimed territory
- Circumstances: after years of superstorms and hurricanes, the U.S. government has drawn a new southern border; lands below the Line are no longer under government protection; Cohen lives in his home, alone, waiting out the never-ending rain
- Characters: Cohen, who lost his family to the storm; his neighbors; Aggie, a cult leader, and the women he has under his power; other survivors; animals; the environment
- Genre: dystopian; adult; scarily believable
- Themes: hope, secrets, family, freedom, love, loss, humanity, survival, violence, betrayal
- What I know so far: it's really, really wet (will the rain never stop?), Cohen sets off on a personal journey of survival and revenge but soon must grapple with questions of his ethical obligations to help those in need, even at his own peril
- Thoughts on the writing: powerful sense of place; vivid images of the world below the Line; complex characters with many shades of gray
- Extras: an Indie Next pick for September 2013; Smith, the son of a preacher, was born in Mississippi, lived in Europe, and has returned to his home state; see his website for more.
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