At first, I found the sharp divide between Luce’s Before and Rosemary’s After to be jarring, and I struggled to reconcile that, but the book made a great case for its deuteragonists’ POVs as their timelines synced up. I connected with Luce more immediately, partially because of the first person perspective, but also because her early pages show her reckoning with her new reality in a way that we’ve all now had to do. I cried while reading about the documentaries that book characters were making of their own changed realities, even started my own “Don’t Forget Normal” list.
This book was an open wound until I read this line: “Fear is a virus. Music is a virus and a vaccine and a cure.” I know it’s not totally applicable to our pandemic, but if the previous pages had broken me open, this line put me back together and gave me hope.
I love how Rosemary’s panic attacks and fear were handled. The book hit a good balance of Rosemary’s issues in particular. How her parents raised her in isolation to protect her from a newly dangerous world while also depriving her of some sorely needed human connections. How afraid that made her and how hard it was to unlearn that, how there were panic attacks and triggers, and she didn’t like to be touched. Though the book ultimately argues that people should be allowed to congregate again now that the pox is no longer a threat and attacks have ceased, Rosemary’s experience of entering the wider world is given the respect it deserves.
The way the story takes us from Luce’s young adulthood into her mid-thirties and manages to shift her voice just enough is really impressive. You can literally feel that she’s gotten older after the timejump, and I really adored older, wiser, slightly jaded Luce.
Sometimes dual perspectives take me out of a story, and that did sometimes happen to me in here, but like I said, the book really earned its right to have both POVs. This story can’t exist without the two of them. Rosemary could see the flaws in Luce’s logic, and Luce could spot the dangers that Rosemary’s naivete didn’t let her see. There was a line at one point about weaponizing enthusiastic kids that just cut straight to my heart.
This book feels like a blueprints for survival, or at least something like it. I was jotting down ideas for socially distanced arthaus events that I thought of as I read.