It’s the 2020 Apocalypse and Sophie Cohen, former social worker turned neighborly drug dealer, must keep her family alive amid those pesky end of the world issues: starvation, earthquakes, plagues, gang violence and alas more starvation.She investigates a serial killing and takes down the sinister emerging power structure while learning to use a pizza box solar oven, bond with her chickens and blast tin cans from the perimeter fence with a Ruger 9MM.
In order to accomplish all this she must find a way to love her mother, accept her daughter’s adulthood and reignite her moribund marriage.
She might discover that a decentralized, consensus driven life—without fossil fuels, iPhones and chocolate éclairs—isn’t the end of the world, after all.
Have I mentioned lately how much I love being surprised by books? Which, granted, is getting progressively harder the more I blog. After all, I read a lot of reviews, a lot of tweets and a lot of pitches for books these days. Anyhow, a short while back I got the above blurb in a email pitch for Etiquette, was charmed by it and said yes. When it arrived I was charmed all over again by the clever cover art, and then it went into my towering (and not that cleverly organized) to-be-reviewed stack to gather dust until I got to it.
I'll be honest, I had no expectations coming into this book, it had been long enough between when it was pitched to me, and when I read it that I couldn't even remember what it was about. And from about 3 pages in I was loving it. Irreverently funny, Mendel takes a stab at what the Apocalypse might look like for the average American family, if there was a murder to solve, family secrets to discover and a gang war to diffuse. So it's like a post-apocalyptic murder mystery/dark comedy. In other words, a total breath of fresh air and not really like anything you've read before. And I mean that.
By Sunday night, Bertrand assumes that in the morning I"m going with him to check out the dead women. I'm assuming I'm not, but I haven't come up with a sidekick facsimile or a compassionate excuse. We lay at opposite ends of one of the two matching couches in the living room. Our feet overlap, but don't touch."Admittedly," I say, "it sounds like a lot of fun, but I don't think so." I say this playfully, which is more play than we've had in years. "If I had only been allowed to complete another season of Bones reruns, they were going to give me a medical degree, but since I didn't... It's no, no, not ever. Anyway, you might just need blood samples.""Oke, good idea. Mitchell would help." he says. "And it's 'We.' We get blood samples. See you're very good at this.""Mitchell? My brother?" After six months of waiting to die and not, we converted the entire tenth floor to a lab and living quarters for Mitchell. He's a genius retard, or guitard as I often think of him. How do I just keep making this discussion worse?Mendels unconventional sense of humour put a smile on my face in under a minute, pretty much any time I picked up the book. Which since I was often reading it on breaks at work, was a perk I can't rave about enough. Her characters were wonky and loveable, but still carefully rendered to show the good and evil potential in everyone, especially in end of the world circumstances. She had great moments of emotion, and as dark as the comedy got there was a clear and appealing sense of hope to everything.
It's a very long two blocks, but we emerge into a Costco warehouse-sized basement, dimly lit but clean and stocked floor to ceiling with loot. Kind of like finding the pirate booty in the cave and gold coins and jewels, except this is much more valuable. Food, row after row of canned goods, boxes of wonders like crunchy granola bars and peanut butter crackers. Passing a row of Nutella, I grab a jar of the chocolate hazelnut without breaking stride. My breathing hasn't slowed from its I'm-going-to-die pace. My hands were already dry and cracked and are now gray with a soot-like substance. I would very much like to wash my hair, which I am sure is crawling with spiders, but I imagine that's out of the question. I hug my Nutella to my ribs..."Strategy." Axe nods to his crew. They not back. "Sophie's in charge now. I have to get upstairs and run logistics there."I nod. Kyle stands a few feet in back of me. Beanstalk man is nowhere to be seen. I take the jar that's still in my very sweaty hand and put it on the table. I'm tempted to ask, "Does anyone have something to put this Nutella on?" but go for the commander thing. I put the jar on the table without banging it, but with force. Now for my first command."I need something to put this Nutella on."A solid read, with excellent dialogue, a great plot, and fantastic characters, I can only hope to hear more from Sophia in the long run.
Etiquette for an Apocalypse, by Anne Mendel
Published by Bracket Press, April 22nd, 2012
My copy kindly provided by the publisher
My copy kindly provided by the publisher