This week I was all set to write a post about boobs, but it's going to have to wait until next week because I'm not done with that book yet.
I was distracted by my favorite post-apocalyptic children's book (you don't have one? Psh.), Children of Morrow by H.M. Hoover. It was sitting on my dresser, all shiny in its library-plastic cover, and I was (for the 100th time) compelled to pick it up.
I came across this book lo these many years ago. I picked it up from the St. Margaret Mary's library shelf in 1986 during 6th grade free-time, and I took it out of the library probably 5 times a year after that.
Tia & Rabbit are two children living in a village of primitive people ruled by their worship of an old warhead. Tia is considered a witch by everyone but Rabbit because of her intelligence, and he himself an outcast because of his strange looks and intense stutter.
Tia & Rabbit discover they are both hearing the telepathic messages of a distant woman named Ashira; Tia can also see pictures in her head of the wonderful place Ashira lives... The Sea.
After Rabbit accidentally kills the head cook, he and Tia have to make a run for it, guided only by the voice of Ashira and the promise of a better life. On the way they pass through what is described in the book jacket as "a vast, open plain, where they come across the strange deserted ruins of an ancient 20th century city".
Years later I had forgotten the name but never the story, and never the scenes of "life after people" it held. Thanks be to Amazon (despite their many faults) for the ability to search strings of text - some parts of the book were so ingrained that a quick search of "Tia and Rabbit" and "Simone" brought it right up.
I of course snapped up a copy on the spot.
Reading it as an adult, I see the deeper meaning of Hoover's story, which seems a bit of a warning about cults and the repression of individuality and intelligence as well as the more obvious warning about the effects of war, but as a 12 year old lonely kid all I really saw was a girl who was misunderstood, who found out she belonged somewhere else and had a higher purpose, and who had to go on a long, dangerous journey to get to that place she should be... and when she got there, she knew she'd be accepted for exactly who she was.
Wow, nothing like a glimpse at my psyche, huh?
Of course it's not just me. There's a reason that books like the Harry Potter and Narnia series are so widely loved - every kid wants to feel like they're special, and more than a few kids feel like they're alone, especially as young teens. Hand them a book where the geeky, unpopular kid comes out on top and they'll be enraptured.
Even Cinderella appeals - put-upon girl on her own makes good, and pwns her stupid stepsisters in the process. Who could wonder at her appeal?
Besides the kid-makes-it-out aspect of the book, I've also always had a fascination with the post-apocalyptic genre, I think mostly because I like knowing everything, good or bad, and feel deeply cheated by the fact that I won't get to see what happens 1000 years from now. I know I'm not alone in that one either.
In the book, the people are living in the world after the "Great Destruction", and the baser Family group Tia & Rabbit escape worship a warhead and are physically deformed by the effects of living in that world; even their crops suffer still in what is clearly a thousand years or more after the event that ended the old world.
It wasn't subtle, and although it was written in 1973, when I read it in 1986 we were constantly in fear of nuclear holocaust so it really hit home. The thing I feared the most wasn't the end of the world though, it was the end of humanity - the idea that all the art and music and culture and remnants of our existence would never seen by anyone who would understand it again.
Books and movies like this and The Stand and The Time Machine and Logan's Run and even Planet of the Apes contain such powerful imagery of our most iconic symbols left in ruins that it's hard not to feel like they're some kind of time travel to the possible future. Rotting books that have become so much meaningless paper, fallen monuments nobody can put a name to, buildings left to rot but which are still recognizable, if to no-one but us as the viewer/reader... those images of nameable destruction put a face to the fear that we all have.
The fear we'll be forgotten.
But at the same time, they give us hope that somehow, a piece of the humanity we recognize will survive and thrive, even in a small part. We won't live to see it, but at least we know we'll go on.