I decided to try something new with my review scheme for these two novellas I read recently. Being shorter in length, as novellas are expected to be, I wasn’t sure I would be pleased with the result of two independent reviews. That being said, these books are so very different! Read on for a brief review of both The End We Start From by Megan Hunter and Heather, The Totality by Matthew Weiner.
The news on the hour, 14th June, one o’clock. Tina Murphy reporting. An unprecedented flood. London. Uninhabitable. A list of boroughs, like the shipping forecast, their names suddenly a perfect and tender as the names of children. Ours.
The End We Start From by Megan Hunter pits the consuming nature of new motherhood against the dangers of survival in the post-apocalyptic world. With our narrator on the brink of parenthood, the world as she knows it is about to change in more ways than one.
The moment of birth looms ahead of my like the loss of my virginity did, as death does. The inevitable, tucked and waiting out there somewhere.
While in the hospital, it is revealed that a mysterious flood has overtaken London— water rising fast and destroying everything in its path. She is now forced to pack up her day old infant, Z, and venture out into the world with her partner, R, unknown dangers awaiting at every turn.
Metaphorically, the world is made anew through this flood, as our narrator is through the trials and tribulations of motherhood. Concise and meditative, Hunter crafts a story that highlights the enduring spirit of mothers as we grow, birth and care for our children in an ever-changing world.
The city is here, somewhere, but we are not. We are all untied, is the thing. Untethered, floating, drifting, all these things. And the end, the tether, the re-leash, is not in sight.
A review copy of this title was provided by Grove Atlantic.
Alternating between two story-lines, Heather, The Totality, chips away at the facade of one perfect family, while simultaneously revealing the sordid details of another.
“I know in my heart. I am certain.” He said, “Whatever problems this family has, there is no family without her.”
Mark and Karen Breakstone’s relationship began as any mediocre albeit rich one does, but the true highlight of their marriage was the birth of their daughter, Heather. They raise her with a suffocating intensity that serves to be the very thing that drives them apart—each one so focused on Heather they forget to see one another.
Meanwhile, the second narrative emerges—one of a wholly different type. Bobby is a disturbed young man who grows up in a fractured household surrounded by drugs and violence. While working in New York he catches a glimpse of Heather which turns abruptly and totally into an obsession.
He watched her knowing she thought she was alone on the roof as she unrolled the waist of her plaid skirt to cover more of her soft thighs and chomped on the mints to prepare for her return to the building. Bobby looked at the girl and felt a yearning so powerful he thought he might faint or ejaculate.
What follows is a succinct, riveting drama that exposes the dark nature of humanity that is present no matter how perfect of flawed the original appearance.
A review copy of this title was provided by Little, Brown and Co.