We Are Unprepared – Meg Little Reilly
Ash and Pia's move from Brooklyn to the bucolic hills of Vermont was supposed to be a fresh start—a picturesque farmhouse, mindful lifestyle, maybe even children. But just three months in, news breaks of a devastating superstorm expected in the coming months. Fear of the impending disaster divides their tight-knit rural town and exposes the chasms in Ash and Pia's marriage. Ash seeks common ground with those who believe in working together for the common good. Pia teams up with "preppers" who want to go off the grid and war with the rest of the locals over whom to trust and how to protect themselves. Where Isole had once been a town of old farm families, yuppie transplants and beloved rednecks, they divide into paranoid preppers, religious fanatics and government tools.
Review: Hipster preppers of the apocalypse? I was totally excited for that.
Then I read the book. Sadly, We Are Unprepared isn’t about “hipster preppers of the apocalypse.” It’s about . . . I don’t know. Boring, horrible people doing boring, horrible things to each other? That seems about right.
Ash and Pia live in a future where global warming has created superstorms. Months after moving to their dream home in rural Vermont, one of these storms starts moving up the coast of the US. Scientists predict that it will flatten everything in its path, including Ash and Pia’s dream house. The couple disagrees on how to handle the coming storm. Pia becomes a “prepper” and starts a compost heap in their living room. Ash joins the local government and frantically tries to prepare the town for flooding. As the storm approaches, Ash and Pia’s marriage falls apart. They might be able to survive the apocalypse, but can they survive each other?
This book isn’t what I expected. I’m not sure if that’s my fault or the synopsis’s fault. Probably both. I expected the superstorm to be a big part of the story, but it doesn’t show up until the last hundred pages. The majority of the book consists of Ash and Pia arguing about the storm and being horrible to each other.
I don’t mind unlikeable characters if they’re doing something interesting, but I didn’t find the storm preparations very interesting. Ash sits through government meetings. Pia goes way overboard with turning their home into a bunker. Her reactions to the oncoming storm are so extreme that Ash suspects she’s mentally ill. Instead of helping her, he goes out with his friends and meets a new girl. I feel like I spent forever waiting for the superstorm, and by the time it arrived, I was hoping it would kill all the characters. I was rooting for the storm.
The themes are where this book shines. The storm is the result of global warming, which is a relevant topic. The story also makes you think about the best way to face a disaster. Is it better for everybody to take care of themselves, or should we band together and share resources to protect the community? What happens if one selfish person puts the whole community’s safety in jeopardy? This book shows that fear of something can sometimes be more deadly than the thing itself.
I like the variety of reactions that the characters have to the storm. Impending disaster brings out the worst qualities in some people and the best qualities in others. Disasters also attract opportunistic bottom feeders. These people roll into town to sell their products (or their crooked religions) to desperate survivors, and then they roll out before they actually have to help anybody. I think this book realistically shows the range of reactions to a disaster.
There are aspects of this novel that I like, but I mostly feel let down. Maybe that’s my fault. I was expecting a different story from the one I got. If you like books about interpersonal conflicts, then you’ll probably like this novel. If you want to read about a superstorm, you’ll probably be disappointed.