The Pesthouse by Jim Crace 2007 (255 pgs)
The country is in a state of disrepair, unrecognizable in it’s dissolution, and has been for ages. Memories of better days are fabled and several generations removed. The survivors eke out a hand-to-mouth existence in frontier-style conditions. The hopeful ones make for the coast, where rumors tell of ships sailing for a new promised land.
Two such miserable hopefuls meet when the town in the valley below is struck by an unknown cataclysm- killing every living being within its limits. They seem the unlikeliest of adventurers- Margaret the recent survivor of a pestilence that exiled her from town, Franklin a naive young hopeful, hobbled by a worn-out knee. But the two somehow forge an instant and powerful trust, striking out together for the coast.
Crace’s writing is atmospheric and taut without being dismal. He perfectly captures that aura of pragmatic hopefulness that compels pioneers. One of my favorite books of the year, and among the top post-apocalyptic books I’ve ever read.