One thing leads to another – hidden gems on the fiction shelves of the Portsmouth Public Library
by Cathy Okhuysen
Sisterland, by Curtis Sittenfeld (2013) is set in St. Louis about twin sisters who found their ability of ESP was a gift for one and a burden to the other. The premise is the prediction of an earthquake and, as one thing leads to another, I was intrigued about other fictional accounts of Earthquakes impending, real or alluded to.
Laurie R King’s Locked Rooms (2005) – #8 in the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series includes memories of the San Fransisco 1906 earthquake and a different blast from the past was finding the trailer to Earthquake (1974)– one of a series of disaster movies “in surround sound”
Then I came across One Amazing Thing by Chitra Divakaruni (2009). This novel is a weaving of “one amazing thing” that the survivors on an earthquake share with each other to occupy their time and minds. The time frame is just about a day and we learn a lot about each character in this quick read. This group of people would be unlikely to ever interact except for the calamity they went through together.
A different take is Haruki Murakami‘s After the Quake (2002) , a collection of previously published short stories set in the aftermath of the 1995 Kobe earthquake in Japan. This is one of those “hidden gems” on the shelf that I have passed over until I became curious about earthquakes in fiction. My favorite was Thailand about a women whose ex-husband lived in Kobe. It and the other stories explore upheavals both natural and personal.
Despite Teddy Wayne’s NYT article about Odds Against Tomorrow (2013) by Nathaniel Rich, this book remains unread. To be fair, I have never found a dystopian book that I liked much! The main character, Mitchell, is shaped by his experience in a Seattle earthquake in the future and helps to promote a business in NYC that will insure against future catastrophes and, of course, one comes. But it’s not an earthquake…..so I leave you to read it and find out what happens.