The Book of Etta by Meg Elison

The Book of Etta Book Cover The Book of Etta
The Road to Nowhere Book 2
Meg Elison
Fiction
47North
February 21, 2017
Kindle, Paperback, Audible, MP3 CD
314

In the gripping sequel to the Philip K. Dick Award-winning novel The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, one woman undertakes a desperate journey to rescue the future. Etta comes from Nowhere, a village of survivors of the great plague that wiped away the world that was. In the world that is, women are scarce and childbearing is dangerous...yet desperately necessary for humankind's future. Mothers and midwives are sacred, but Etta has a different calling. As a scavenger. Loyal to the village but living on her own terms, Etta roams the desolate territory beyond: salvaging useful relics of the ruined past and braving the threat of brutal slave traders, who are seeking women and girls to sell and subjugate. When slavers seize those she loves, Etta vows to release and avenge them. But her mission will lead her to the stronghold of the Lion--a tyrant who dominates the innocent with terror and violence. There, with no allies and few weapons besides her wits and will, she will risk both body and spirit not only to save lives but also to liberate a new world's destiny.

How do you imagine life after a worldwide catastrophic event?

apocalypseMeg Elison’s The Book of Etta is a visit, generations later, into the world of  The Unnamed Midwife.  In the first book an unknown virus wipes out a majority of the US population, especially effecting women of childbearing age and newborn babies.  What is left is a desolate and unlawful society.  The story follows the journey of an unnamed nurse, who disguises herself as man to survive in a time where the very few women left are brutalized and trafficked.  She documents her experiences in a journal until she ends up at a compound in Missouri that has established a semblance of an orderly and fair society intent on helping reestablish the human population.

The sequel to this story, The Book of Etta, takes place at the same compound in Missouri, where they revere the unnamed midwife and count her writings as almost sacred.  old journalEtta is the daughter of one of the leaders of the compound, a midwife and teacher, but instead of following in her mother’s footsteps she has chosen to be a raider who secretly disguises herself as a male named Eddie.  Her mother knows nothing of this alter ego and continually pressures Etta to pursue the calling of a woman.  Hints are continually dropped that Eddie is the result of a traumatic experience Etta suffered.  Eddie’s missions take him around the state in an attempt to locate items the compound needs or could use, but most importantly helping captive women and girls obtain their freedom by any means necessary.  It is a violent time with no regard for human life, only self preservation or self promotion, and Eddie is quite adept at navigating this world.

While The Unnamed Midwife was a graphic portrayal of humanity’s baseness and the crumbling of society, The Book of Etta, seems to focus more on the internal sexual identity battles the main character faces in an immoral society where men far outnumber women.  This internal battle between Etta and Eddie colors most scenes and interactions.  Also, the groups that Eddie encounters with orderly societies and large populations of women are usually portrayed as religious enclaves, which Eddie regards as bizarre and abnormal. The antagonist of the story is the kingpin of the remains of St. Louis, a massive man called the Lion who actually keeps captive lions.  The story’s brutal ending is depressing and leaves the reader with very little resolution for Etta/Eddie in her identity struggles.  For me, the story fell short of The Unnamed Midwife.  Both stories tap into the morbid curiosity that all humans have, like rubbernecking at a car wreck,  but The Book of Etta’s focus on the internal sexual struggles of the main character seemed to overshadow the rest of the story.

Under a shadow business metaphor for living under a powerful leader or the little guy or small business competing against giants as a businessman facing a huge darkness shaped as a giant man as a symbol of a bodyguard or guardian angel.

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