On reading: Afterland by Lauren Beukes

Title: Afterland

Author: Lauren Beukes

From the back: Three years after a pandemic wiped out 99% of the men on earth, a mother and son are on the run . . .

All Cole has left in the world is her boy, Miles.

With men now a prized commodity, keeping him safe means breaking hastily written new rules – and leaving her own sister for dead.

All Miles has left in the world is his mother.

But is one person enough to save him from the many who would kill to get their hands on a living boy?

Together, Cole and Miles embark on a journey across a changed, hostile country, towards a freedom they may never reach. And when Cole’s sister tracks them down, they’ll need to decide who to trust – and what loyalty really means in this unimaginable new world.

The gist: I love Lauren Beukes’ writing and really that’s all there is to it, you should all go and get all of her books and read them right now.

Seriously.

And it’s been a while since Beukes’ last novel, and my expectations were high and I’m always so excited to get my teeth into one of her novels, and well let’s just say that Afterland was absolutely no let down.

Beukes’ writing is jagged, sharp, edgy, and somehow tender while she pulls you along on an escape across America, barely letting you catch your breath. Afterland has a sense of underlying terror, grief and unease that will not let you go, as the characters navigate a world that maybe isn’t so far removed from this one in some ways. Each character is alive on the pages, you feel the gut emotions churning as family ties and survival rub uneasily against each other. You feel the panic, the helplessness, the desperation and the fire.

Afterland has everything you could ask for – from gangsters to sex clubs to cults (hell, I know what my tick-list looks like) – with dark wit running through it, while at the same time leaving room for quiet moments that pull on your heart. Honestly, I’ve gotta say I kinda wouldn’t mind a beer or two with Billie, and that’s even after, well, you’ll see.

And in some ways this is one of the most beautiful things about how Beukes’ writes. Her characters are so real, so relatable, and so imperfect. Despite the darkness and the fear, there’s space for hope and redemption.

Take a breath, wash your hands, and settle in for a white knuckle ride across a post-pandemic landscape.

Favourite line: “tragedy can be small too, personal”

Read if: You want a masterclass in pacing, in a taut race across America with characters you’re going to want to hang out with, go for beers with, cry with.

Read with: No other plans because this is the sort of book that won’t let you take a break. Bring snacks.

Get it: Afterland by Lauren Beukes

ARC gratefully received from Netgalley and Penguin UK – Michael Joseph

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