Review: The Things That Keep Us Here

The Things That Keep Us Here
By Carla Buckley
Random House
February 2010
416pp

Here’s the blurb from the publisher:

How far would you go to protect your family?

Ann Brooks never thought she’d have to answer that question. Then she found her limits tested by a crisis no one could prevent. Now, as her neighborhood descends into panic, she must make tough choices to protect everyone she loves from a threat she cannot even see. In this chillingly urgent novel, Carla Buckley confronts us with the terrifying decisions we are forced to make when ordinary life changes overnight.

A year ago, Ann and Peter Brooks were just another unhappily married couple trying–and failing–to keep their relationship together while they raised two young daughters. Now the world around them is about to be shaken as Peter, a university researcher, comes to a startling realization: A virulent pandemic has made the terrible leap across the ocean to America’s heartland.

And it is killing fifty out of every hundred people it touches.

The Short of It:

A gripping plot, likable characters, yet this one falls a bit short of its mark.

The Rest of It:

There are a lot of books out right now that deal with the end of the world, or a pandemic of some sort. This one deals with H5N1 and from its name alone, you can imagine the similarities to H1N1. As I was reading, I couldn’t help but think about the H1N1 scare here, and how it could have been much, much worse. In this novel, things take a turn for the worse and Ann is forced to make some tough decisions. As a mother, I could easily relate to Ann. The decisions she made were not made easily. They were made out of fear, and an intense desire to keep her family safe. I felt that the author did a good job of making Ann’s situation desperate enough for the reader to understand her decisions.

There is a lot that didn’t work for me though. This is a story of survival yet when opportunities present themselves, Ann and her husband Peter, don’t always take advantage of them. If there is any chance of your kids starving, you are going to do what you have to do to ensure that they don’t. There are moments when they do take advantage of a situation, but not always and the inconsistency bothered me. As I was reading, I found myself asking about water or food or weapons, etc. To me, these things are basic necessities when dealing with a pandemic of this magnitude.

A couple of the characters really didn’t have much of a purpose except to cause conflict between the main characters. One example of this is a young woman named Shazia. As a reader, I never really got to know her and I wondered what her purpose was besides the obvious, which I won’t go into as it would give some of the story away. Her character, along with her back story seemed a bit choppy to me and could have been a bit more developed.

Overall, the situations that I expected to be the most difficult ended up being almost too easy. Too pat. Water becomes an issue and then all of a sudden there’s a stash of water at your convenience. Not very believable. A trip to the hospital, in the middle of a pandemic… and she gets in and out in under an hour. Not likely.

I received this ARC several months ago so I don’t know how the final version turned out, but the version that I received was a bit disjointed and could have used a bit more editing. There were some overused passages that could have been weeded out and perhaps a heavier hand could have been used as far as keeping things consistent. Without these distractions, I think I would have enjoyed the book quite a bit more.

I recently read In a Perfect World, which also deals with a pandemic, but it was much more moving for me than The Things That Keep Us Here. However, I would definitely read something from this author author again as this was Buckley’s debut novel and parts of it did show some promise.  

Source: This ARC was sent to me by Bantam Dell via Shelf Awareness. The official release date for this book is February 9, 2010.

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11 thoughts on “Review: The Things That Keep Us Here”

  1. Yeah, if you are going to throw the end of the world at us, it better be good, right? You can’t get in and out of the hospital in an hour in the best of times!

    1. It’s interesting because chapters would go by where it was pretty much spot-on, and then something unrealistic would happen. I just finished Life As We Knew It and it too seemed to be a tad more realistic than what I read in Things.

  2. I was wondering how it compared to “In A Perfect World,’ which is very very similar as far as the basic premise. The things you mentioned as inconsistent would annoy me as well. Good review.

  3. I have an ARC of this book, too, but I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. I’m sure some of those things you mention will bother me, too, but we’ll see how it goes.

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