Saturday, May 25, 2013

Children of the Dust, by Louise Lawrence

Barnes & Noble

After a nuclear war devastates the earth, a small band of people struggles for survival in a new world where children are born with strange mutations.

Everyone thought, when the alarm bell rang, that it was just another fire practice.  But the first bombs had fallen on Hamburg and Leningrad, the headmaster said, and a full-scale nuclear attack was imminent.

It's a real-life nightmare.  Sarah and her family have to stay cooped up in the tightly-sealed kitchen for days on end, dreading the inevitable radioactive fall-out and the subsequent slow, torturous death, which seems almost preferable to surviving in a grey, dead world, choked by dust.

But then, from out of the dust and the ruins and the destruction, comes new life, a new future, and a whole brave new world.

There are a few things I remember about this book:
  1. It was one of my favorites when I was a freshman in high school.  I wrote an awesome book report and I'm pretty sure I got an A on it.
  2. A little girl hid under the table, which was covered with a blanket.  Dust fell down the chimney and contaminated everything in the house, and the family "knew" that the little girl was going to be the only one to live.  The little girl was left with a man who lived on a farm.
  3. A generation later, after the dust has settled, some people come up to the earth from an underground shelter and find this now-grown little girl, who is giving birth to another baby.  This baby is covered with fine white fur.
  4. One of the group members is actually the girl's half-sister.  Their father had been escorted underground when the bombs hit and then proceeded to make a new life according to the needs of the remainder of society.
I've thought about this book off-and-on over the years, so it was my first choice when--for a book club challenge--I needed to re-read a book from high school English class.  Unfortunately, the book was first published nearly 30 years ago (man, I feel old), so it wasn't easy to find.  I lucked out and bought one of a handful of copies available online.

I am happy to say that I was right about the four bullet points above!  I'm thrilled that I remembered correctly.  What I didn't remember, however, was the hope for the future that each generation showed.  Somehow, I also didn't realize that it was Christian Fiction.  So I was more than a bit surprised at all of the religious references.  And a lot surprised that this was one of my favorite books all those years ago.

I don't think this novel would stand up to modern Dystopia, but I can't help but give it five stars.  The story has stayed with me for twenty-something years, which counts for a lot.

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