Title: THE RENDING AND THE NEST
Author: KAETHE SCHWEHN
Genre: FICTION, SCIENCE FICTION and FANTASY
Length: 304 PAGES
Publisher: BLOOMSBURY USA
Received From: NETGALLEY
Release Date: FEBRUARY 20, 2018
Price: $26.00 USD (HARDCOVER)
Rating: 4 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐
A chilling yet redemptive post-apocalyptic debut that examines community, motherhood, faith, and the importance of telling one’s own story.
When 95 percent of the earth’s population disappears for no apparent reason, Mira does what she can to create some semblance of a life: She cobbles together a haphazard community named Zion, scavenges the Piles for supplies they might need, and avoids loving anyone she can’t afford to lose. She has everything under control. Almost.
Four years after the Rending, Mira’s best friend, Lana, announces her pregnancy, the first since everything changed and a new source of hope for Mira. But when Lana gives birth to an inanimate object–and other women of Zion follow suit–the thin veil of normalcy Mira has thrown over her new life begins to fray. As the Zionites wrestle with the presence of these Babies, a confident outsider named Michael appears, proselytizing about the world beyond Zion. He lures Lana away and when she doesn’t return, Mira must decide how much she’s willing to let go in order to save her friend, her home, and her own fraught pregnancy.
Like California by Edan Lepucki and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, The Rending and the Nest uses a fantastical, post-apocalyptic landscape to ask decidedly human questions: How well do we know the people we love? What sustains us in the midst of suffering? How do we forgive the brokenness we find within others–and within ourselves?
The word that best describes THE RENDING AND THE NEST would, in my opinion, be: Bizarre. But, that isn’t quite fair. To leave that as its only descriptor would be incomplete.
Most post-apocalyptic fiction follows a pattern, a well-used and much-loved formula used by authors that works most every time. In this book, not only is that formula not used, it is thrown off a fifty-foot cliff into an ocean occupied by mutant octopuses. (No, there is no such thing in the book as mutant octopuses… I made that up.)
The idea that an event occurs wherein 95% of the population simply vanishes with no explanation is not new. In fact, Fundamentalist Christians have believed in something called “The Rapture” since as early as the 1830s.
“The Rapture is an eschatological term used by certain Christians, particularly within branches of American Evangelicalism, referring to a purported end time event when all elect Christian believers—living and resurrected dead— will rise into the sky and join Christ for eternity.”
– Source: WIKIPEDIA
I am NOT saying this book is about the Rapture, it could very well be that is exactly what happened, but despite a myriad of suggestions as to the event’s origin or meaning, the author intentionally leaves the reader in the same state of curious inquisitiveness as the characters. They want to know what happened and why, and what it all means, but they are left to wonder and to theorize, the same as the reader. All they know for sure is that somehow their world was charged in an instant and most everyone they knew disappeared.
Jumping forward to a few years ‘post-event,’ Mira and the group she bonded with on the day their world was forever changed, are now living in a small colony they dubbed “Zion.”
Mira’s best friend Lana discovers she is pregnant and after nine months gives birth, not to a living baby, but to a plastic object. The shock, grief and incredulity begin to wear off as more “babies” are “born.”
Mira needs to figure out what is going on and how best she can protect those she loves.
When a traveler arrives and tells them about ‘The Zoo,’ their world view shifts.
This book brings up profound questions. Questions that are not only relevant to the characters in the book, but also to the reader and to every single person on the planet:
* What is love?
* What is the point of existence? (In other words; what is the meaning of life?)
* What makes us who we are? Is it our history? Is it our family?
*Who are we when everything is stripped away? Are we the same person? Do we want to be the same person?
If you enjoy books that are post-apocalyptic and/or are outside of the norm, this book is for you.
I rate THE RENDING AND THE NEST as 4 out of 5 Stars. ⭐⭐⭐⭐
“To birth a baby is to suffer in a new way.”
“Here is a truth: After you experience the apocalypse, after you are living on the other side of it, falling in love still feels like its own apocalypse.”
“The problem with love is that it craves an outlet. Love is a verb, as my father said, and so love makes us act: notes scribbled, roses purchased, hair brushed, ointment administered. Simple acts and tremendous ones.”
“I fell asleep … A bloody mess curled around a gun. Aching with love I wasn’t sure I’d be able to offer to anyone else again.”
“That’s what being a teenager often is: not so much asserting yourself as trying not to fall through the ice.”
“For a few brief days I’d even been some fucked-up version of a mother.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – IN HER OWN WORDS:
I was born in Chicago but I’ve lived beside a lake in Minneapolis, on a sleepy street in Indiana, in a rural mountain village in Washington, across from a Mattress Mart in California, upon the side of a volcano in Ecuador, near the coupling of train cars in Montana, and between the dusty walls of a farmhouse in Iowa. Now I live in Northfield, Minnesota where the re-enactment of a bank raid each year is softened with the scent of chocolate breakfast cereal cooking in the Malt O Meal factory down the road.
I studied creative writing at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the University of Montana and earned a BA from Gustavus Adolphus College. I currently teach composition and creative writing at St. Olaf College.
I’m the author of The Rending and the Nest, Tailings: A Memoir, and Tanka & Me. I also am the co-editor of Claiming Our Callings: Toward a New Understanding of Vocation in the Liberal Arts. My poems and prose can be found in journals such as Crazyhorse, Pleiades, jubilat, Witness, Minnesota Review and the anthology Fiction on a Stick. I’ve been the recipient of a Minnesota Book Award for Creative Nonfiction, a Minnesota State Arts Board Grant, a Loft Mentor Series Award, the Donald Justice Poetry Prize, and a Best of the Net Anthology award.
A poem of mine is printed on a sidewalk square in the town where I live. This means that lots of people can read my words or ignore them, decorate them with sidewalk chalk or spill Pinot Grigio into their very crevices. This makes me happy. I think writing belongs in the messy middle of our lives, making us stranger and stronger, word by word.
To learn more about this author, visit the following links: