Friday, October 24, 2014

Book review: "Z for Zachariah" (with spoilers)

(This review has spoilers. If you want a review without spoilers, go here.)

"Z for Zachariah" is a simple story with just two characters: Ann Burden, a 15-year-old (she turns 16 during the story) left alone in an isolated valley after a nuclear holocaust, and John Loomis, a scientist who wanders into the valley.

Both of them thought they were last people on Earth, so you'd think finding each other would be a good thing, right?  Uh-uh. Not when John Loomis is, well, insane.

You can't help but love Ann her heart and soul are purer than gold. She nurses John back to health after he carelessly bathes in a radiation-tainted creek. She feeds him and cleans him. She reads to him and plays the piano for him.

And how does he repay her? By trying to rape her. By taking her house and her dog (and contributing to the dog's death). By shooting her and trying to starve her.

By the end, I really wanted John Loomis to die. I didn't care whether Ann shot him or he got run over by a runaway tractor, or whatever. I wouldn't have mourned his loss.

I guess I'm not as good a person as Ann Burden. Even after he tried to rape her, she still brings him food. At the end, even though she has the opportunity, she says she cannot shoot him. And, as she leaves the valley in John's radiation-protecting suit, she promises to send back help, if she can find any.  She's just too good. 

Ann is certainly the most capable 15/16-year-old I've ever met. She makes confident decisions about planting crops, tending to livestock and planning ahead for winter.  She drives a tractor and can shoot a gun with precision. Geez, if I could do half as well, I'd be happy. Ever since reading this I've been imagining what I'd do if I were left alone on Earth.  Could I survive?  Yikes. I need to learn how to milk a cow.

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