Written by Meg Little Reilly
Published by Mira Books on August 30th 2016
Genres: Fiction, Literary
Meg Little Reilly places a young couple in harm’s way—both literally and emotionally—as they face a cataclysmic storm that threatens to decimate their Vermont town, and the Eastern Seaboard in her penetrating debut novel, WE ARE UNPREPARED.
Ash and Pia move from hipster Brooklyn to rustic Vermont in search of a more authentic life. But just months after settling in, the forecast of a superstorm disrupts their dream. Fear of an impending disaster splits their tight-knit community and exposes the cracks in their marriage. Where Isole was once a place of old farm families, rednecks and transplants, it now divides into paranoid preppers, religious fanatics and government tools, each at odds about what course to take.
WE ARE UNPREPARED is an emotional journey, a terrifying glimpse into the human costs of our changing earth and, ultimately, a cautionary tale of survival and the human
WE ARE UNPREPARED for the Coming Storm
- What’s it about? We Are Unprepared, a debut novel by Meg Little Reilly, explores the dramatic impact of climate change on a small Vermont town.
Ash and Pia left gentrifying Brooklyn to live more “authentically” in Ash’s native Vermont. They’re just settling into their new town and fixer-upper house when the forecasts start coming. The winter will bring the East Coast a storm like nothing anyone’s ever seen. Blizzards, gales, and floods are on the way and people need to prepare. Ash joins a local committee working on a controversial damage-control plan, while Pia falls in with the catastrophic mindset of the town’s survivalist “prepper” community. The couple’s differing responses to the coming crisis and the tension of waiting for it to arrive expose the widening gaps in their marriage.
- Why did I read it? Everyone talks about the weather, but we still can’t do much about it when it happens. However, we’re learning more about how we impact how it happens. Climate change is a thing. The jacket copy for We Are Unprepared suggested a novel exploring one specific and plausible event driven by its effects. I picked up this galley at Book Expo last spring, intrigued by the idea.
No Matter How Much We Prepare, We May Never Be Ready
- What worked for me? I thought Reilly effectively captured the weird blend of urgency and tedium in getting ready for something big to happen…and then waiting for it to happen. And when The Storm finally hit, it brought plenty of drama along with it.
- What didn’t I like? The more personal drama before and after The Storm was, frankly, not always that interesting. We Are Unprepared shakily straddles the line between “natural disaster thriller” and character-driven literary fiction. Ash’s first-person narration often drifts toward navel-gazing, and we don’t get much insight into other characters as seen through his eyes. As I mentioned, this is a debut novel, and Reilly may have simply been overreaching with it.
- Recommended? Michelle found We Are Unprepared “disappointing”, and I don’t disagree. The book’s premise was interesting, but my attention wandered. I think it just didn’t keep its focus fixed on that premise tightly enough. I’ve read some outstanding nonfiction weather stories, and this fictional one wasn’t as satisfying.
Completed reading: December 2016
IT WOULD BE narcissistic to assume that the earth conjured a storm simply to alter the course of my life. More likely, we’d been poisoning this world for years while ignoring the warning signs, and The Storm wasn’t so much a cosmic intervention as it was a predictable response to our collectively reckless behavior. Either way, the resulting destruction— to North America and our orderly life in Isole—arrived so quickly that I swear we didn’t see it coming.
Looking back, I realize how comforting those months leading up to The Storm had been as we focused on preparing for the disaster. News of the changing weather patterns gave each of our lives a new clarity and direction. It didn’t feel enjoyable at the time, but it was a big, concrete distraction in which to pour ourselves, even as other matters could have benefited from our attention. It was urgent, and living in a state of urgency can be invigorating. But the fear can be mistaken for purpose, which is even more dangerous than the threat itself.