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Natalie's young life is shattered when she learns her parents have died in an auto accident, but she has no idea the extent to which her life, and indeed the entire world, will soon change. When she visits her grandfather at his ranch to deliver the news his daughter and son-in-law have died, her Grandpa Jeb tells her of the new world awaiting at the end of a lava tube his own father discovered many years before, the tube's entrance now hidden in Jeb's barn.
The characters speculate that the tube is actually a worm hole because it takes them back more than 9,000 years, to the western coast of the North American continent during the Paleo-Indian period. Natalie's grandfather has discovered that the world as we know it will end in a few short years, and he makes plans to transfer as much of the best of our modern knowledge to the old world as he can before the coming cataclysm.
A central question in the novel is the possibility of remaking the world without making the same mistakes (the abuse of the earth, the invention of nuclear weapons, relationships between peoples defined by power and military might, and etc.). What if, one of the characters asks, the Native Americans had been left to develop toward some unified civilization instead of being nearly wiped out by the European invasion?
Beyond The Barn Door is at once an apocalyptic tale of the end of modern civilization and a tale of hope in the rebirth of a new civilization to take its place. It is also a love story, and a story of human creativity and resilience.