Please tell me you were all close to a heart attack at the end of the first chapter. If not, you may be disowned.
I had a heart attack at the beginning, throughout, and at the end. I didn’t think that that scene was going to be foreshadowing for many other scenes of male genitalia being removed. Yikes!
Yes! The removal of male genitalia seemed to almost be a theme in this book, up to and including the plague where men’s penises literally rotted off.
I remember where I was when I read that last sentence and I remember the exact words that I spoke aloud, to myself: “Holy shit!”
I loved that Chloe came back in the end. I wanted more of that story!
I gasped loudly at the end of that first chapter and uttered the same words as Jen! I loved this entire novel, and if it had been 100-200 pages longer, I would have happily devoured it. I did.not.want the book to end…but Chloe returning at the end was a nice consolation.
I was so happy to see her again. I think I would have been really let down if we didn’t at least get some peek back into her life.
That’s actually something I loved about this book—the way it can function as both short stories and a novel, but I think that’s probably a downside for some people. How did the format feel for you?
LOVE my short stories and I think it worked nicely in this book. The interconnected stories were annoying at first because of the number of characters, but then it became a challenge and mystery for me. I ended up with three pages of notes and an attempt at a family tree to keep it all straight. I feel, though, this will be a huge turn-off for some people.
I love short stories, too—but have found recently that novels that try to pose as short stories can often be a non-starter for me. I felt that each chapter was cohesive enough that it didn’t necessarily feel like a collection of short stories.
I read an advanced copy that didn’t have a family tree. Even though I loved the stories I think I would have liked it so much more if I had been able to reference that tree. When I read short stories I need them to be connected. The Shore has those connected stories but they weren’t clear enough, for me.
I wanted a family tree to look back on at the end, but I kind of liked the puzzle of figuring everything out. I guess I’m a bit of a glutton for punishment, but I love the work of piecing things together when I’m reading (as long as it’s not nearly impossible).
I’m sad that the finished copy has family trees in it, honestly, I really enjoyed sketching out my own. I started on my iPad and had to finish in an old school composition book.
Let’s talk the final chapter. Did it work? Was it too out there?
Way out there at first. I finished it late in the evening, but after I woke up and thought about it more, I was impressed. I ended up messaging Shannon to review a few points like: did they basically start over like cavemen after the apocalypse? The monosyllabic names? Simian means “higher primate”.
I loved the final chapter, of course I loved it once it started going all apocalyptic. What I might have prefered to see as a feminist statement from Sara Taylor would have been a matriarchal society. Clearly Sally was the first Keeper, why didn’t she set up a society to run with women in power? Even in that last chapter where the daughters are revered, they are still treated mostly as possessions. Is it about the inevitable cycle of the human race? As Calley tells Medora, in so many words, the man will always win?
I do wonder if Taylor is making a statement there, especially in comparing the type of men on the island. I have no idea if this is right, but I’m just throwing it out there. I’ve read this chapter a few times because it’s my favorite puzzle piece and keep trying to fit things together. Quite a bit of time is spent comparing the Halfmen (which include the individual Keepers) to the Bigmen. “Things were, once, being Bigman was cushiony work, and that’s how we reckon the mainland went all to hell’n’flinders.” In comparison, the Halfmen use their heads because their bodies don’t work properly. It seems as though, for the first time in the book, we’re shown more thoughtful and compassionate men.
To demonstrate that, Taylor shows Simian, who is dishonest with another man. He gets Jillet’s father drunk (on alcohol that’s a callback from the Wake chapter) in order to get his permission and ends up earning Jillet’s trust and love without needing to overpower, assault or lie to her.
Ohhhhh… Mind. Blown.
I love your theory, Shannon, because it’s less depressing than my take. Yes, Simian means “higher primate” but that includes humans; I felt Taylor was saying we humans are what we are and it’s next to impossible to escape that. Everything wrong with humanity before the plague is part of our nature, now it’s simply starting over, and there’s nothing we can really do about that. Maybe this ties in with April’s question about why didn’t things start over with a matriarchal society? Because it can’t. Men are the way they are, women are the way they are. So I fall in line with a theory April mentioned above: This is the natural and inevitable cycle of humanity.
And what about the disease? Being sex related and the women being the carriers… is it payback from the women for years of being raped, abused and treated like possessions?
Payback is exactly what came to my mind, too. Poetic justice.
Although I know there’s little evidence for it in the book, I like to think that Sally somehow engineered the plague. (I mean, she could control the weather, why not a plague?) I do think that at least symbolically the plague was intended to be some sort of payback for generations of women being mistreated.
Agreed. I got the sense from Sally’s field guide planning that she at least had some deep insight into the plague’s coming. And maybe if she engineered the plague, it was meant to wipe out the undesirable men (eventually leading to the Halfmen we see in the final chapter)?
Also when Chloe visits Aunt Sally (who isn’t really her aunt) she mentioned “when a population gets too numerous for the environment, something happens to reduce it.” It felt like she meant too numerous with bad men and even suggested that Chloe return with Seth because they needed genetic variety or good male genes from outside the island.
What about Tamara, who… [checks her notes] I have as the granddaughter of Pierce and Becky Lumsden (assuming Pierce ever got off his ass and married Becky). What did her desperate longing for a child say? And the lengths she was willing to go to have it by a specific man? Was the fact that it was born so very deformed an overdosage of the fertility drugs? Is that one of the reasons we saw so many Halfmen in the final chapter?
I don’t think it was the fertility drugs at all. She took what seemed like a normal dose of Clomid, which is very safe, and a double dose of Heparin. Heparin doesn’t cross the placenta and I don’t think it’s considered a “fertility drug,” it just helps support pregnancies in women who are prone to blood clotting issues. She says “the pills make her nauseous” but that’s easily explained by the iron supplements.
I was definitely thinking along April’s lines, with the children being born that way because of the drugs and the last chapter a result of that. But maybe the abnormalities were some effect of the plague? If it wasn’t for Tamara’s determination to have a baby with Scott, you could assume her need for a child was just because of the apocalypse, but…why Scott? I’m still puzzling this one out, too.
Maybe because Scott was a continuation of the crappiness we saw in men within this novel? Maybe Tamara’s offspring got into the gene pool and undid Sally’s intentions for a matriarchal society?
Definitely a possibility. I hope someone can help us figure that one out. Going back to Sally and her intentions, I wondered a bit about Tamara being an asymptomatic carrier. Do you think that was true for all Lumsden women or that maybe Sally had given Tamara some sort of protection?
It just occurred to me that when we see the inside of Sally’s house we see magazines and books on DNA, among other things. She also has twins that are insinuated to have been born from an in vitro procedure, perhaps giving Sally the opportunity to ‘tweak’ the genes to give her offspring some sort of immunity. Maybe I’m getting way out there now…
Nope, I’m rolling right along on that road with you. With its bits of magic, this book just made me so happy to see Southern Gothic-style fiction back in the hands of a woman. I’ve been absolutely desperate for it.
For some reason I tend to avoid Southern Gothic and this is the second book this year to make me rethink that (the other being Thomas Pierce’s Hall of Small Mammals). Both books have a bit of magical realism. Is that typical for this style? If so, I sense an exciting shift in what I think I like to read!
I don’t think I’ve read many Southern Gothic-style novels. What would you recommend?
Magical realism is definitely typical and Flannery O’Connor would be my go-to. Read all the Southern Gothic! I just feel like there hasn’t been a woman writing in this space in a long time and it’s so nice to see, especially with the feminist elements.
I’m such a fan of this gritty, gothic style. It’s so different from my very un-gritty, un-gothic, northern life.
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There’s a ton to dig into here, readers! Tell us how you felt about the infamous “future chapters”. What theories do you have about the book? How did you feel about the different perspectives (we see first, second and third)? Do you think the cover is a fair representation of the novel?