Gallery Books: 3/4/2014
Hardcover, 384 pages
My Thoughts:Blythe Hallowell is sixteen when she is abducted by a survivalist and locked away in an abandoned missile silo in Eudora, Kansas. At first, she focuses frantically on finding a way out, until the harrowing truth of her new existence settles in—the crushing loneliness, the terrifying madness of a captor who believes he is saving her from the end of the world, and the persistent temptation to give up. But nothing prepares Blythe for the burden of raising a child in confinement. Determined to give the boy everything she has lost, she pushes aside the truth about a world he may never see for a myth that just might give meaning to their lives below ground. Years later, their lives are ambushed by an event at once promising and devastating. As Blythe’s dream of going home hangs in the balance, she faces the ultimate choice—between survival and freedom.Above is a riveting tale of resilience in which “stunning” (Daily Beast) new literary voice Isla Morley compels us to imagine what we would do if everything we had ever known was taken away. Like the bestselling authors of Room and The Lovely Bones before her, Morley explores the unthinkable with haunting detail and tenderly depicts our boundless capacity for hope.
In Above by Isla Morley Blythe Hallowell is abducted by creepy school librarian and survivalist Dobbs Hordin and taken to an abandoned Atlas F missile silo located by Eudora, Kansas, her hometown. Dobbs tells Blythe he is saving her from the end of the world. Once the world ends, Dobbs and Blythe will be prepared to take their rightful place and repopulate the earth. As a captive, Blythe must struggle with her crushing loneliness, isolation, as well as giving birth.
The novel is separated into two sections: Below and Above. Obviously the first part of the narrative deals with Blythe's captivity below ground and her coping mechanisms while the second portends a future.
There is no doubt that Above is a compelling novel to read and will keep you engrossed in all the action.
However, for me Above was a so-so read. I have several major problems with it.
First I really felt that the beginning of Morley's novel owes too great a debt to Emma Donoghue's Room. I totally understand that abduction and captivity of a young woman in a novel may be coincidental, but it felt too similar at the beginning. I will acknowledge that the comparison ends in the second half when the story takes a dystopian turn.
This duality of the two sections is another problem for me. The complete novel felt like two separate novels crammed together without the benefit of enough development of the plot to make the complete novel work as the sweeping dystopian saga it wants to be. The ideas are there, but the execution is lacking and inconsistent.
For most readers the BIGGEST problem I had with Above won't be a problem for you at all, so you can ignore this complaint.
I wish Morley had made up a mythical city in Kansas rather than using an existing one, because she repeatedly annoyed me with her descriptions and summations of the area. See I live in Lawrence Kansas, home of the University of Kansas, only 6 miles from Eudora, Blythe's longed-for hometown. While Eudora is a small town, the population is almost 3 times Morley's number. That wouldn't include the large population living outside the city limits. And there is a very large population living in the country. It's only about 20 minutes down the highway until you reach the outer suburbs of the whole Johnson County/Kansas City suburban area. When Morley said "Douglas County, Kansas, land of miles and miles of nothing" I wanted her to leave California and come see the nothing she is describing, because if she has visited the area she missed an essential truth: that it's actually pretty close to a large population area thus we have many commuters living here, in these miles and miles of nothing, in towns and acreages.
But then she might simply need to visit Kansas in February. Blythe describes her 5th birthday party. She says her mother has set up the card table in the backyard... on February 2nd. Ummm, not likely. We've had some bitter cold days here in Kansas in February. Sure, sometimes it warms up but no one would be putting up a card table in the backyard for a birthday party on February 2.
And yes, FYI, there are seagulls inland on lakes.
Disclosure: I received an advanced reading copy of this book from the Gallery Books for review purposes.