What IS the fascination with dystopias, anyway? I mean… I’m totally into it to, so no judgement here but why are we so interested in everything falling apart?
I read a great post this morning (that I now can’t find or I would absolutely link to it) reviewing and recommending a handful of dystopian novels and for each one, I was all, “Ooooh!” and “Let’s put that in my GoodReads TO READ list along with the 50 other dystopian novels I’ll never get around to.”
I have a whole Pinterest board of post-apocalyptic pictures. Because I like to look at them. They make me feeeeeel something and it’s something like nostalgia mixed with existential dread with a dash of optimistic Let’s Remake The World The Way I Want It!
And as a writer, I can. So take that.
As far as dystopias go, I’m not sure The Homecoming Effect exemplifies the existential dread part of my Pinterest collection but there is an element of nostalgia–of living more simply, providing for oneself and family, worrying less about “success” and more about survival–and definitely some optimism, especially in the main character, Bunny, who becomes so obsessed with providing a better future for her children that she risks their safety in the here and now to get a school built in her tiny religious town.
From The Homecoming Effect (on sale 2/5-2/7 for $1.99 on Amazon):
“Let us not beat around the proverbial bush, Mr. Cantor,” Bunny began before they even crossed the threshold of driveway to country lane. “Because Lord knows that I am not the kind of woman who likes to mince words. What are my chances here? This school means the world to me and I think you know that.”
It was really Bunny’s children that were her world, more so now that the world had changed so drastically that there wasn’t nearly as much to distract her from that very fact. Career ambition and job security were relics of the past, from a time when there were more options for women, for everyone, and perhaps that was behind the hold up with the school. Perhaps the town folk knew better about education and where it leads. There’s fear of the unknown, she thought, and then there’s fear of the known too well to be repeated.
But this idea, this school, this position of leadership in the community had become an obsession. It was the only solution to the problem of how to provide best for her children, how to solidify her standing in the community, and how to keep her family safe and whole. She was too eager for it, she knew it, and it was affecting her ability to control the situation.
“Fair chance, Mrs. Brandt. Fair enough, I suppose, for any such endeavor. But there are some… concerns.” The old man’s already leisurely pace slowed as he turned to look her right in the eye. All chivalry aside, Cantor could be just as brash as she was, just as eager for information, and none too shy in asking for it. “Remind me how old you are now?”
She chided herself inwardly for pushing too hard too fast but outwardly, Bunny giggled and gently patted his sleeve, “Mr. Cantor, don’t you know a lady never tells? Besides, we’ve been over and over this, between me, you and half the darn congregation. I am well aware of how much younger my husband looks than me and God’s own truth be told, he might just be a couple of turns of the sun shy of my ripe old age, but my body’s been through hell and back carryin’ those three boys. What mother of three doesn’t look a little ragged ’round the edges?”
It was a game they played whenever they spoke and why she suspected he had agreed to be her ally. Cantor wasn’t nearly as pious as his reputation in the town suggested nor was he so simple as to give credence to her contrivances. She knew he was hiding as well as he knew she was. The difference was that he played a tighter strategy, alone and elderly, where she always had several pieces in motion and not all of them so easily directed. She intentionally quickened her pace, as much to distract as to hasten him toward the town center. His mind may be quick, she thought, but his body was ungainly and preoccupying it with movement was her best defense.
“But my boys bein’ half grown now,” she continued, propelling him forward with the melody of her speech. “I’m gonna let you determine the round about of my age from your own decent calculations. I have assured you and swore by the Almighty that all three of my boys were born into a lovin’ sanctified marriage and anyone who don’t believe it can ask God his ownself. But I don’t need to be telling you this, Mr. Cantor. You know my soul is clean as yours. You swore to it when you vouched for my family and advocated for their entrance into the congregation if I remember correctly. And if it’s a bit of gossip standing between me and building a school for the betterment of every youngin’ in this township, well that there’s the flimsiest excuse I ever heard.”
Cantor smirked, the way he did whenever Bunny compared them to each other. “O’ course, Mrs. Brandt,” he said, nodding his approval. “I’m sure you understand I’ve been backing you because God knows I don’t want no more gov’ment hounds trying to take over. We don’t need that poison in our fine fellowship here. But if the Church is gonna govern the people, the Church has got to be… clean. Untouchable, even. And a representative of our schoolin’ system… well, I can’t tell you how embarrassing it would be to find… secrets of the none-too-Christian kind amongst our leadership.”
There was a defining truth to his statement that Bunny was very well aware of, knowing that the safety of her loved ones lay in her ability to talk her way into or out of whatever situation arose. Here, in this township, they could be together. They could be a whole and healthy family, just as long as they could play by the rules. She knew better than anyone that the Godfolk had all the power. Their townships were the only refuge. Pretending piety was the best solution to their situation, and the only hope for happiness.
Maybe it’s just that our own personal worlds can fall apart so easily. We want to know that we can rebuild in a way that isn’t awful, maybe even in a way that’s better than what we used to have.