From Publishers Weekly
Elison's gripping and grim first novel, which won the Philip K. Dick Award in its previous, small press publication, tells the story of an unnamed woman who survives a plague that wipes out most of humankind in just weeks, leaving 10 male survivors for every woman. The story is beautifully written in a stripped down, understated way, though frequently gruesome in its depiction of rapes, murders, and stillbirths. The protagonist, who sometimes calls herself Karen, or Dusty, or Jane, is beautifully realized as a middle-aged, bisexual woman with considerable skills, an indomitable will, and great adaptability, though she suffers considerably and is far from a superwoman. A prologue and an epilogue set long after the events of the main narrative (and reminiscent of the concluding chapter of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale) hint at a positive future, leaving the reader with a glimmer of optimism in the midst of despair. This fine tale should particularly appeal to readers of earlier feminist dystopias such as The Handmaid's Tale, Suzy McKee Charnas's Walk to the Edge of the World series, and P.D. James's The Children of Men.
Recovering from a mysterious and nearly fatal disease, the unnamed female protagonist of Elison’s debut novel must adapt quickly in order to survive a new and brutal world. This mysterious disease swiftly wiped out a majority of the female population and has made healthy birth impossible for survivors in its wake. Elison’s unnamed protagonist has made it her mission to use her previous medical experience as a midwife, providing birth control to any women she meets during her travels. Men were left almost entirely untouched by the disease, though, and much of the remaining male population has degenerated into gangs of rapists and slavers, hunting and selling the remaining women they find. Cutting her hair and donning male clothing, will the protagonist be able to save the women she encounters? Does civilization still exist in this new postapocalyptic world? Elison takes readers on an exciting and often excruciating journey, navigating issues of gender and sex in a scorched, disease-ridden world.