Comments on: Post Apocalyptic Book Club: Week 6 - Life As We Knew It http://sharonastyk.com/2008/08/11/post-apocalyptic-book-club-week-6-life-as-we-knew-it/ Sharon Astyk's Ruminations on an Ambiguous Future Fri, 09 Jan 2009 20:43:08 +0000 #?v=2.3.2 By: Carole http://sharonastyk.com/2008/08/11/post-apocalyptic-book-club-week-6-life-as-we-knew-it/#comment-10226 Carole Thu, 11 Sep 2008 17:01:09 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2008/08/11/post-apocalyptic-book-club-week-6-life-as-we-knew-it/#comment-10226 LAWKI was a great read. It was another way to think of disaster preparedness, as well as a well-written and original story. For someone who hadn't been thinking along preparedness lines, I thought the mom did very well. In fact, the family had so many advantages (wood stove, early and smart shopping, cool stuff stored in the attic) that I wondered how so many other families managed to survive as well, without these sources. I have recommended this book to many friends! I found Pfeffer's second book, The Dead and the Gone, to be much less realistic. Two teenage children manage to survive in New York City (which would be under water, but somehow wasn't) by going to church, basically. There was little of the kinds of violent behavior which one would expect to find in any city in this scenario. How could an unarmed teenage boy walk around NYC with bags of food in a time of such severe hunger and societal breakdown? I, too, would be interested to read a sequel to LAWKI, which shows life moving forward after that first long, hard winter. LAWKI was a great read. It was another way to think of disaster preparedness, as well as a well-written and original story. For someone who hadn’t been thinking along preparedness lines, I thought the mom did very well. In fact, the family had so many advantages (wood stove, early and smart shopping, cool stuff stored in the attic) that I wondered how so many other families managed to survive as well, without these sources. I have recommended this book to many friends!

I found Pfeffer’s second book, The Dead and the Gone, to be much less realistic. Two teenage children manage to survive in New York City (which would be under water, but somehow wasn’t) by going to church, basically. There was little of the kinds of violent behavior which one would expect to find in any city in this scenario. How could an unarmed teenage boy walk around NYC with bags of food in a time of such severe hunger and societal breakdown?

I, too, would be interested to read a sequel to LAWKI, which shows life moving forward after that first long, hard winter.

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By: Rosa http://sharonastyk.com/2008/08/11/post-apocalyptic-book-club-week-6-life-as-we-knew-it/#comment-9001 Rosa Tue, 12 Aug 2008 13:23:52 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2008/08/11/post-apocalyptic-book-club-week-6-life-as-we-knew-it/#comment-9001 I was actually thinking of that kind of academic-upper-class and management-class men - the working-class guys I know with more than one family didn't have the wherewithal to pick up and move, so they're all close together (and usually closer in age - those guys aren't as attractive to women half their age when they're 40). But I know a bunch of middle-class-turned-poor kids who were the first kids in that scenario, dropped into poverty as teenagers when their dads disappeared, plus I babysat for a couple families of second kids when I was in college. I have a lot of hope for the guys my age who grew up vowing not to disappear like their dads, but so far they are not coming through any better that I can see. But, yeah, just because mom's there, she gets all the flak. I've been trying for years to keep a cash stash, and my boyfriend just doesn't see why he should remember to hit the bank when he knows there's money at home, so he keeps spending it. But I do worry that the ATM system might go down in an ice storm or something, and leave us broke. It seemed odd that the cashiers were even taking cash, though. In my hometown, during a week-long blackout, the grocery store decided it wasn't safe to be open. It seems like either the place would have shut down, or the cashiers would have been threatened or freaked out, and left (maybe with a cart of groceries themselves). I wonder, if the electricity were off, if the autolocks on the shopping cars wheels would engage at the edge of the parking lot? I was actually thinking of that kind of academic-upper-class and management-class men - the working-class guys I know with more than one family didn’t have the wherewithal to pick up and move, so they’re all close together (and usually closer in age - those guys aren’t as attractive to women half their age when they’re 40).

But I know a bunch of middle-class-turned-poor kids who were the first kids in that scenario, dropped into poverty as teenagers when their dads disappeared, plus I babysat for a couple families of second kids when I was in college. I have a lot of hope for the guys my age who grew up vowing not to disappear like their dads, but so far they are not coming through any better that I can see.

But, yeah, just because mom’s there, she gets all the flak.

I’ve been trying for years to keep a cash stash, and my boyfriend just doesn’t see why he should remember to hit the bank when he knows there’s money at home, so he keeps spending it. But I do worry that the ATM system might go down in an ice storm or something, and leave us broke.

It seemed odd that the cashiers were even taking cash, though. In my hometown, during a week-long blackout, the grocery store decided it wasn’t safe to be open. It seems like either the place would have shut down, or the cashiers would have been threatened or freaked out, and left (maybe with a cart of groceries themselves).

I wonder, if the electricity were off, if the autolocks on the shopping cars wheels would engage at the edge of the parking lot?

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By: Sharon http://sharonastyk.com/2008/08/11/post-apocalyptic-book-club-week-6-life-as-we-knew-it/#comment-9000 Sharon Tue, 12 Aug 2008 12:19:50 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2008/08/11/post-apocalyptic-book-club-week-6-life-as-we-knew-it/#comment-9000 I'm looking forward to reading the companion novel. Rebecca - they didn't forage (didn't know about it, I suspect), but they did start chopping wood in the summer. I admit, I doubt hunting will hold up much in the 'burbs for very long - so I suspect those with no experience won't have much luck, at least with large game (they didn't really have a forest, so much as some woods in back of their house). I think the presumption, that this was a very suburban family, and that their choices were suburban choices sort of fit. Rosa, I guess what I mean is that the father's response seemed implausible given the kind of educated (son goes to Cornell, Mom is a writer, Dad a Professor), class and culture and kind of person they were trying to portray the father as. And even then it isn't perfect - I get that it happens, but I also think that Dad got totally off the hook in the last discussion, while the mother who was left to feed the kids by herself, raise them and buy baby clothes for the new half-sibling got hosed, which is sort of why I brought it up. Magma is tidal, actually, so more pull by the moon would definitely mean more volcanoes. As for favoring the baby - I honestly don't know. My kids are so little that I can't imagine. Sharon I’m looking forward to reading the companion novel. Rebecca - they didn’t forage (didn’t know about it, I suspect), but they did start chopping wood in the summer. I admit, I doubt hunting will hold up much in the ‘burbs for very long - so I suspect those with no experience won’t have much luck, at least with large game (they didn’t really have a forest, so much as some woods in back of their house). I think the presumption, that this was a very suburban family, and that their choices were suburban choices sort of fit.

Rosa, I guess what I mean is that the father’s response seemed implausible given the kind of educated (son goes to Cornell, Mom is a writer, Dad a Professor), class and culture and kind of person they were trying to portray the father as. And even then it isn’t perfect - I get that it happens, but I also think that Dad got totally off the hook in the last discussion, while the mother who was left to feed the kids by herself, raise them and buy baby clothes for the new half-sibling got hosed, which is sort of why I brought it up.

Magma is tidal, actually, so more pull by the moon would definitely mean more volcanoes.

As for favoring the baby - I honestly don’t know. My kids are so little that I can’t imagine.

Sharon

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By: Traci http://sharonastyk.com/2008/08/11/post-apocalyptic-book-club-week-6-life-as-we-knew-it/#comment-8994 Traci Tue, 12 Aug 2008 04:04:09 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2008/08/11/post-apocalyptic-book-club-week-6-life-as-we-knew-it/#comment-8994 I read LAWKI a few months ago but the mom's quick thinking the day of the hit, stuck with me. Especially her realization that she needed all the cash she could get her hands on. I have spent some time trying to come up with an emergency plan that may include my husband and 18 year old son getting supplies and/or cash on their way home. The plan hasn't quite come together yet, but having read this book it is part of my *What If* scenarios. Oh, and man would it SUCK to have volcanic ash covering the sun! The companion novel Dead and Gone set in NYC was interesting too. ~Traci I read LAWKI a few months ago but the mom’s quick thinking the day of the hit, stuck with me. Especially her realization that she needed all the cash she could get her hands on. I have spent some time trying to come up with an emergency plan that may include my husband and 18 year old son getting supplies and/or cash on their way home. The plan hasn’t quite come together yet, but having read this book it is part of my
*What If* scenarios.

Oh, and man would it SUCK to have volcanic ash covering the sun!

The companion novel Dead and Gone set in NYC was interesting too.

~Traci

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By: Rebecca http://sharonastyk.com/2008/08/11/post-apocalyptic-book-club-week-6-life-as-we-knew-it/#comment-8990 Rebecca Tue, 12 Aug 2008 00:52:08 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2008/08/11/post-apocalyptic-book-club-week-6-life-as-we-knew-it/#comment-8990 Sharon, I think so many people prefer the "guns and ammo" books because that scenario is so much easier to deal with. What I mean is, it is a lot easier psychologically to think about picking up a gun and shooting than just going on after the break or coping with starvation. It's a lot more exciting too. ;-) I too liked the shopping porn, but then, I've all ready said that. I haven't read the book (couldn't find it) but I do wonder about certain things in the survival situation: why didn't they go looking for edible foods in the forest (especially during the summer); why didn't they start chopping wood in the summer, why didn't they hunt, why didn't they rob the neighbors? These are all things that come immediately to my mind as possibilities. (Ok, maybe I wouldn't rob the neighbors, but its an option a lot of people would take.) -Rebecca Sharon,
I think so many people prefer the “guns and ammo” books because that scenario is so much easier to deal with. What I mean is, it is a lot easier psychologically to think about picking up a gun and shooting than just going on after the break or coping with starvation. It’s a lot more exciting too. ;-)

I too liked the shopping porn, but then, I’ve all ready said that.
I haven’t read the book (couldn’t find it) but I do wonder about certain things in the survival situation: why didn’t they go looking for edible foods in the forest (especially during the summer); why didn’t they start chopping wood in the summer, why didn’t they hunt, why didn’t they rob the neighbors? These are all things that come immediately to my mind as possibilities. (Ok, maybe I wouldn’t rob the neighbors, but its an option a lot of people would take.)
-Rebecca

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By: Rosa http://sharonastyk.com/2008/08/11/post-apocalyptic-book-club-week-6-life-as-we-knew-it/#comment-8985 Rosa Mon, 11 Aug 2008 22:28:45 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2008/08/11/post-apocalyptic-book-club-week-6-life-as-we-knew-it/#comment-8985 Sad to say, the dad's actions seemed totally plausible to me. Lots and lots of dads get a new wife and disappear as far as the older kids are concerned. I know way too many men with exactly that child spacing - a few teenagers/early twenties, then another couple babies to make the new wife happy. Plus, maybe her parents had a lot of resources or they had some other reason to think the trip would work out. Or maybe he was just engaging in the kind of wishful thinking Miranda did, that things were magically better somewhere else. Or maybe his new wife said she'd go on her own if he didn't. Miranda wouldn't be privy to that (or, if her parents were as together as they seemed, to any extra rancor in their divorce that would make him think he wasn't welcome.) I did wonder about the volcanos, it's good to hear your husband thought they were plausible. I did wonder about the "happy ending" - was the volcanic winter about over, or what? It was a good place to end the book, though, and not just for YA readers. Hell, even The Road had a happy ending, in its own way. Sad to say, the dad’s actions seemed totally plausible to me. Lots and lots of dads get a new wife and disappear as far as the older kids are concerned. I know way too many men with exactly that child spacing - a few teenagers/early twenties, then another couple babies to make the new wife happy.

Plus, maybe her parents had a lot of resources or they had some other reason to think the trip would work out. Or maybe he was just engaging in the kind of wishful thinking Miranda did, that things were magically better somewhere else. Or maybe his new wife said she’d go on her own if he didn’t. Miranda wouldn’t be privy to that (or, if her parents were as together as they seemed, to any extra rancor in their divorce that would make him think he wasn’t welcome.)

I did wonder about the volcanos, it’s good to hear your husband thought they were plausible. I did wonder about the “happy ending” - was the volcanic winter about over, or what? It was a good place to end the book, though, and not just for YA readers. Hell, even The Road had a happy ending, in its own way.

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By: MEA http://sharonastyk.com/2008/08/11/post-apocalyptic-book-club-week-6-life-as-we-knew-it/#comment-8983 MEA Mon, 11 Aug 2008 21:56:10 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2008/08/11/post-apocalyptic-book-club-week-6-life-as-we-knew-it/#comment-8983 In at least one culture (old China) where famine was a way of life, it was expected that if you had to chose a child to survive, it would be the eldest son, but that was a cultural assumption that we don't have. It may, in part, have been an attempt to make things a little easier for the parents in that they didn't have to make a choice. In at least one culture (old China) where famine was a way of life, it was expected that if you had to chose a child to survive, it would be the eldest son, but that was a cultural assumption that we don’t have. It may, in part, have been an attempt to make things a little easier for the parents in that they didn’t have to make a choice.

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By: Susan in NJ http://sharonastyk.com/2008/08/11/post-apocalyptic-book-club-week-6-life-as-we-knew-it/#comment-8980 Susan in NJ Mon, 11 Aug 2008 19:33:56 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2008/08/11/post-apocalyptic-book-club-week-6-life-as-we-knew-it/#comment-8980 I love the disaster shopping "porn" in LH and this book even though I think the store scenario is unrealistic -- only Mom seeming to realize that frozen food might not be the best choice. I love Mrs. Nesbitt trotting off to the Hallmark shop to buy candles. Except for some of the gender based roles and most favored son status, I thought Mom did a pretty good job. The family pulling together in a crisis was well-represented. The house seemed pretty handy, with the old stuff in the attic, etc. I also questioned Dad's behavior, why wouldn't he want to stay in one place (with his stockpile of food), try and insure the survival of his children, and with handyaccess to medical for the new expecting wife (other than to drive the plot). As portrayed in the book, things didn't seem horribly strained between the two halves of his family. With a whole country in turmoil, it seems unrealistic that he could get to Las Vegas for grandma's sake, or to Lisa's folks either. Of course, maybe she was making his life hell on earth. With respect to the overall disaster, I liked the scenario but had thoughts along the lines of Eric's analysis (astrophysicist brother, astronomers in the family, too much scifi for too many years, plus a lot of physics and math). The flu seemed like overkill . . . or was this one of those asteroid borne illnesses (they're lucky it wasn't vampirism). I know the author has done a somewhat contemporaneous companion volume set in NYC. I'd love to see how she'd carry this forward beyond the immediate aftermath/first volcanic winter, maybe with her explanation of where all that lovely emergency food at the end arrived from -- massive population die off resulting in surplus warehouse goods in emergency shelters is as good an explanation as I can get at. I love the disaster shopping “porn” in LH and this book even though I think the store scenario
is unrealistic — only Mom seeming to realize that frozen food might not be the best choice. I love Mrs. Nesbitt trotting off to the Hallmark shop to buy candles. Except for some of the gender based roles and most favored son status, I thought Mom did a pretty good job. The family pulling together in a crisis was well-represented.

The house seemed pretty handy, with the old stuff in the attic, etc.

I also questioned Dad’s behavior, why wouldn’t he want to stay in one place (with his stockpile of food), try and insure
the survival of his children, and with handyaccess to medical for the new expecting wife
(other than to drive the plot). As portrayed in the book, things didn’t seem horribly strained
between the two halves of his family. With a whole country in turmoil, it seems unrealistic
that he could get to Las Vegas for grandma’s sake, or to Lisa’s folks either. Of course,
maybe she was making his life hell on earth.

With respect to the overall disaster, I liked the scenario but had thoughts along the lines of Eric’s
analysis (astrophysicist brother, astronomers in the family, too much scifi for too many years, plus a lot of physics and math).
The flu seemed like overkill . . . or was this one of those asteroid borne illnesses (they’re lucky it wasn’t vampirism).

I know the author has done a somewhat contemporaneous companion volume set in NYC. I’d love to see how she’d carry this forward beyond the immediate aftermath/first volcanic winter, maybe with her explanation of where all that lovely emergency food at the end arrived from — massive population die off resulting in surplus warehouse goods in emergency shelters is as good an explanation as I can get at.

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By: Hummingbird http://sharonastyk.com/2008/08/11/post-apocalyptic-book-club-week-6-life-as-we-knew-it/#comment-8979 Hummingbird Mon, 11 Aug 2008 18:51:08 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2008/08/11/post-apocalyptic-book-club-week-6-life-as-we-knew-it/#comment-8979 This is a really thought-provoking book, for all its points that may deserve criticism: most of all the unrealistic ending which, I believe the author felt was required in a young adults book. As for "is this a plausible problem", I don't really think so. Even though the moon has plenty of craters from former strikes, those were from an earlier era when there was a lot more debris flying around the inner solar system. There haven't been any strikes in recorded history, not even near misses. The moon is so small and the number of large objects passing through the inner solar system is so small that a collsision is unlikely. I believe the earth's gravity would be likely to divert it toward earth. However, I give the author credit for a really original and well thought out disaster scenario. As for the book as prep manual, it is pretty good for the things it makes you think about. The "what would I get at the store" question. I think dogfood is as good an answer as any. Mrs. Nesbitt's list is really comprehensive, though it is hard to believe she would think of long johns right away in the middle of summer. Who knew this was going to be long term disaster? Readers of this blog, however, have given this a lot of thought and would be expected to come up with such things and more. One quibble as one who has been heating with wood for a long time. It is unlikely that the family would be very successful burning freshly cut wood in the stove all winter. It would be green and difficult to start since all the tinder they gathered after the disaster would be wet and not helpful. The chimney would fill with creosote from burning green wood and probably burn the house down. I don't remember any chimney cleaning until the snow fell down it. Also, did they buy a lot of matches? I don't remember, but mother probably thought of that too. I wouldn't dismiss the religious subplot too readily. It seemed to me to be a plausible response on the part of people unprepared psychologically to cope with a challenge of this magnitude. You pray and it doesn't help, so you decide it must be god's will that you suffer and die. I can see people doing that, and actually would prefer they do that than take an automatic rifle and go out in a blaze of glory. Lastly (finally?) the choice of the youngest to survive. I am not a mother so I will have to ask those who are, but don't mothers really (though they don't like to admit it) favor their last "baby" who always remains that in their mind? This is a really thought-provoking book, for all its points that may deserve criticism: most of all the unrealistic ending which, I believe the author felt was required in a young adults book.

As for “is this a plausible problem”, I don’t really think so. Even though the moon has plenty of craters from former strikes, those were from an earlier era when there was a lot more debris flying around the inner solar system. There haven’t been any strikes in recorded history, not even near misses. The moon is so small and the number of large objects passing through the inner solar system is so small that a collsision is unlikely. I believe the earth’s gravity would be likely to divert it toward earth. However, I give the author credit for a really original and well thought out disaster scenario.

As for the book as prep manual, it is pretty good for the things it makes you think about. The “what would I get at the store” question. I think dogfood is as good an answer as any. Mrs. Nesbitt’s list is really comprehensive, though it is hard to believe she would think of long johns right away in the middle of summer. Who knew this was going to be long term disaster?
Readers of this blog, however, have given this a lot of thought and would be expected to come up with such things and more.

One quibble as one who has been heating with wood for a long time. It is unlikely that the family would be very successful burning freshly cut wood in the stove all winter. It would be green and difficult to start since all the tinder they gathered after the disaster would be wet and not helpful. The chimney would fill with creosote from burning green wood and probably burn the house down. I don’t remember any chimney cleaning until the snow fell down it. Also, did they buy a lot of matches? I don’t remember, but mother probably thought of that too.

I wouldn’t dismiss the religious subplot too readily. It seemed to me to be a plausible response on the part of people unprepared psychologically to cope with a challenge of this magnitude. You pray and it doesn’t help, so you decide it must be god’s will that you suffer and die. I can see people doing that, and actually would prefer they do that than take an automatic rifle and go out in a blaze of glory.

Lastly (finally?) the choice of the youngest to survive. I am not a mother so I will have to ask those who are, but don’t mothers really (though they don’t like to admit it) favor their last “baby” who always remains that in their mind?

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