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Rebirth (Aftertime Series #2)

Rebirth (Aftertime Series #2)

4.3 29
by Sophie Littlefield

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The end of the world was just the beginning

Civilization has fallen, leaving California an unforgiving, decimated place. But Cass Dollar beat terrible odds to get her missing daughter back—she and Ruthie will be happy.

Yet with the first winter, Cass is reminded that happiness is fleeting in Aftertime. Ruthie retreats into


The end of the world was just the beginning

Civilization has fallen, leaving California an unforgiving, decimated place. But Cass Dollar beat terrible odds to get her missing daughter back—she and Ruthie will be happy.

Yet with the first winter, Cass is reminded that happiness is fleeting in Aftertime. Ruthie retreats into silence.

Flesh—eating Beaters still dominate the landscape. And Smoke, Cass's lover and strength, departs on a quest for vengeance, one that may end him even if he returns.

The survivalist community Cass has planted roots in is breaking apart, too. Its leader, Dor, implores Cass to help him recover his own lost daughter, taken by the totalitarian Rebuilders. And soon Cass finds herself thrust into the dark heart of an organization promising humanity's rebirth—at all costs.

Bound to two men blazing divergent paths across a savage land, Cass must overcome the darkness in her wounded heart, or lose those she loves forever.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Littlefield turns what could be just another zombie apocalypse into a thoughtful and entertaining exploration of many themes.... Littlefield has a gift for pacing, her adroit and detailed world-building going down easy amid page-turning action and evocative, sensual, harrowing descriptions that bring every paragraph of this thriller to life." —Publishers Weekly, starred review on Aftertime

"The fresh, original worldbuilding solidly supports the unfolding narrative and Littlefield's compelling writing will keep readers turning pages late into the night to find out what happens next. Outstanding!" —RT Book Reviews, Seal of Excellence on Aftertime

"Stephen King's The Stand in a bra and panties.... Aftertime is a highly palatable amalgam of post-apocalyptic fiction, romance, and horror. Yes, the overall storyline is epic but ultimately this is a truly intimate story about one woman's search for herself." —Paul Goat Allen

"Littlefield creates characters with just the right quirks to charm." —Kirkus Reviews

"Rollicking... Delivers on the promise of her debut, A Bad Day for Sorry. Littlefield wields humor like a whip, but never lets it dilute the whodunit."
—Publisher's Weekly on A Bad Day for Pretty [starred review]

"Crime fiction hasn't seen a character as scrappy, mean and incredibly appealing as Stella in a long time. A-"
-Entertainment Weekly on A Bad Day for Sorry

"[Littlefield is] one of the brightest new mystery writers in the business."
-The Huffington Post

"Another of the year's best debuts, a standout mystery distinguished by its charming protagonist and her compelling voice."
—Chicago Sun-Times on A Bad Day for Sorry

"Sophie Littlefield shows considerable skills for delving into the depths of her characters and complex plotting as she disarms the reader.... [She] keeps the plot churning with realistic action that doesn't let up."
-South Florida Sun-Sentinel on A Bad Day for Sorry

"A Bad Day for Pretty firmly establishes [Littlefield] as a new brand of writer.... It's a joy when a new writer holds your attention from beginning to end. It's a treat when she has something so new to say."
-Crimespree Magazine

Product Details

Publication date:
Aftertime Series , #2
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.38(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.81(d)

Read an Excerpt

THE FIRST SNOWFLAKE AFTERTIME WAS LIKE NO snowflake that ever fell Before. Cass nearly missed it, kneeling on the matted dead kaysev plants, their woody stalks poking into her skin through the thick leggings she wore beneath her dress. Her eyes had been closed, but Randall had gone on too long, the way people do when they are trying to say something meaningful about someone they didn't know well. After a while Cass grew restless and began to look around, and there, not two feet away, the snowflake drifted past in a lazy swoop as though it had all the time in the world.

Cass licked her cracked lips, could almost feel how the flake would melt on her tongue. Until that moment she didn't realize she had actually doubted whether snow would ever return, much as she'd doubted whether rats or sparrows or acorns or moths would return. She wished she could nudge Ruthie, or even Smoke—she knelt between the two, in the place of honor up front—but a funeral was still a funeral, and so she stayed as still as a stone.

Maybe by the time they were finished, there would be more snowflakes. A flurry, a drift: the gunmetal sky looked grudging to Cass; there would be no storm today. Besides, the temperature would rise well above freezing by noon. These early snows never lasted long.

Next to her, Ruthie sneezed. Cass wrapped an arm around her and pulled her closer. Ruthie had loved the snow when she was a baby. She was still a baby—three years and two months, according to the Box's calendar. The month and date were metal numerals hung from nails on a wooden pole, the kind people once nailed to houses and mailbox posts, back when people still lived in houses. Each morning, the first shift guard changed the numbers. Today, it read 11 * 17.

Smoke held Cass's hand, his strong fingers wrapped around hers, and she felt his blood running sure and strong under his skin, circulating through his body and making him strong and back to his heart again, and she said the silent prayer that was part of her breathing itself now, part of every exhale: thank–you–thank–you–thank–you–for–making–him–mine. His touch, his closeness, that was what made her whole; he more than made up for every wrong man that had come along before. She closed her eyes and exhaled the prayer and waited for Randall to finish his rambling eulogy as the five other people in attendance fidgeted and sighed.

"And now Cass will say a few words."

So her turn had come, at last. Cass stood, nervous and hesitant. She gulped air as she took the few steps to the humble altar next to the fresh grave. Sieved earth was piled neatly. Gloria was in the ground, her body covered with six feet of rich Sierra mountain soil—Dor's grave diggers charged a premium for the full six, what with most folks settling for half that these days. Cass breathed out, then in once more, a rhythm she learned back in her early days in A.A., when she'd been torn between the paralyzing certainty that if she spoke during the meeting she would cry—and that if she didn't, she would never come back.

Back then, it had sometimes been all she could manage to say her name. Today she would have to say more. Not for those gathered here: besides Smoke and Ruthie, there was only Randall, standing at a respectful distance and twisting his handkerchief in a tight knot around his knuckles, and Paul, who never missed a funeral, and Greg, who'd spent some evenings with Gloria even after she was banned from working the comfort tents.

And then also Rae, who managed the comfort tents, and probably felt guilty about firing Gloria, since, when Gloria couldn't work, she couldn't buy anything to drink. And that was what killed her, in a way—after only a few days of forced sobriety she had drunk a bottle of Liquid–Plumr from the garbage hill slowly accumulating on the far side of the stadium's parking lot.

Cass gazed out on the others and swallowed back tears. Smoke had put on a clean shirt, not that you could see it under his heavy work coat. Ruthie wore a little red coat and matching hat that a raiding party had brought back last week. Everyone else was dressed in the usual layers of clothes splodged with stains, the heavy boots. No one looked directly at her, save Smoke. No one gathered here would care if Cass cried for Gloria, but it was important to her that she not be misunderstood, not now, not today.

She trailed her fingers along the scratched wooden top of the small table enlisted as an altar. Someone had brought it back from a night raid, a humble thing whose most appealing feature was that it was light and easy to carry. Cass thought it might—half a century ago—have been a telephone table, back when phones had to be plugged into the wall. On Sundays, Randall put a cloth on the little table, rested his Bible on top of that. He didn't lack for an audience. Cass didn't begrudge him his followers—nor did she begrudge them their hour of peace or solace or whatever it was they found in his words.

Still, today: no cloth, no Bible. It had fallen to Cass to plan the service. No one else offered, and Randall had come to stand in the door to their tent, hat in his hand, and asked Cass what would be right. Gloria had never spoken of God and Cass felt it would be presumptuous to impose Him on her now.

Cass shut her eyes for a moment and exhaled slowly. When she opened her eyes again, Ruthie was watching her expec–tently, lips parted in anticipation. For a child who didn't talk, Ruthie listened to others with great care, none more than her mother.

Cass produced a tiny smile for her daughter. She reached for the string around her neck and pulled from under her blouse the pendant she had made yesterday, and Ruthie did the same. They wore clothespins, the old–fashioned wooden kind, knotted to nylon cord. Cass held the clothespin as though it were a precious thing and considered it, turning it slowly this way and that.

"Gloria and I talked about clothespins once," Cass began, her voice rusty. "She told me about hanging clothes on a line."

Greg, dry–eyed and somber, nodded as though what Cass was telling was a story he'd heard a dozen times. That couldn't have been. Gloria made little sense when she talked; she dredged memories and unfurled them carelessly, moving in and out of time and sense. You didn't have a conversation with Gloria so much as an occasional glimpse into the ill–tended recesses of her mind. There was nothing there to hold on to.

She wondered what memories Gloria had shared with Greg, if they had talked at all. The comfort tents were places of shame; men and the occasional woman slipped in and out of them like shadows, bartering whatever they had for a grope in the dark, an awkward coupling, a muffled cry. Anything to forget the gone world for a while.

Those who worked in the tents usually had no other way to earn. That was the case with Gloria, who was too far gone to raid, to cook, to harvest, to mend or make things, or even offer knowledge that helped. But she had meant more than nothing to Greg.

"She told me about hanging clothes on a line," Cass said again. She cleared her throat. "And she…had someone, once. His name was Matthew."

Gloria had long, thick silvery hair. That, and her faded blue eyes, were the only clues to her long–ago beauty. She was lean and leathery. She'd broken a tooth and on the rare occasions when she was sober she was suddenly self–conscious and tried to hide the gap, barely moving her lips to speak. Her nails were ragged and dirty. Her clothes grew filthy and torn in the days before her death. The last time they spoke, Gloria had answered all of Cass's questions with noncommittal grunts and never once met her eyes. Ruthie had been afraid of her.

"She loved him," Cass concluded. Once, Gloria had loved. That would have to be enough. Cass had said all she knew— all that was important, anyway. Gloria never told her anything but his name; if he'd been a lover, a husband, a childhood friend, it didn't matter.

She bent to the earth, the rectangle of dirt raked carefully one way and then the other, crosshatched from the tines. She dug her fingers in and took a handful, then stood up and slowly sifted the earth back over the length of the grave.

She stood back as the others filed around the perimeter of the grave. They knelt and scooped their own handfuls of dirt, even Ruthie. The knees of her tights were smudged with dirt—another stain Cass would not be able to get out. She sighed. Each person shook their dirt back down onto the grave, and Cass wondered what words they said in their minds. Hers was goodbye—maybe everyone said goodbye.

The dirt was sprinkled and still they ringed the grave, waiting. Randall dug in his pocket. "Cass, perhaps you'd like to…"

He held out a plastic bag, gapping open; inside were dried kaysev beans, dull and brown. Cass looked at him sharply, but for once Randall stared back with a hint of challenge in his expression. Smoke squeezed her hand, shook his head. Smoke stayed far clear of Randall's Sunday–morning services. He had little to do with believers. He even did his occasional drinking at Rocket's—not German's, where believers tended to congregate.

Cass didn't want to take the beans. The funeral practice of sprinkling the grave with kaysev seed—it was based in the Bible, the passage in Matthew about the sower. It was a common practice, almost secular by now; a whole new culture of loss, its habits and practices as ingrained as if generations of ancestors had practiced them. It had only been eight months since the Air Force had rained kaysev down from the skies on their last flights, but eight months had been long enough to create new rituals. The plant was meant to feed the population; it had begun to feed their imaginations, as well.

Smoke saw everything through the filter of ideology and he was resolute, and Cass was inclined to agree with him, at least on this. Terrible memories of the Convent were too fresh, the mark its zealotry had left on Ruthie too deep.

God had not taken up residence across the street in the stadium—of that Cass was sure.

But unlike Smoke, she was not ready to declare Him absent. Still, He was an elusive, crafty cipher to Cass, and for now she meant to keep Him distant.

When Cass did not take the plastic bag from Randall's outstretched hand, the frowning man narrowed his eyes and upended it himself, the beans falling to the earth and rolling into the crevices and fissures in the earth. "He that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word," he intoned, his gaze never leaving Cass's face.

Then he stepped back from the grave, jamming the empty bag back into his pocket and brushing his hands together fastidiously. Everyone else followed him, retreating to the cleared area where the service had begun, shuffling slowly.

"And now we conclude our service for Gloria," Randall murmured, the wind snatching at his words and carrying them away, so that everyone leaned in closer to hear. Everyone, that is, but Cass, who picked up Ruthie and edged to the back of the small gathering while Randall raised his hands for a final benediction.

"Man, you are dust," he said, closing his eyes. "And to dust you shall return."

Not for the first time Cass considered that Randall was a fraud, cobbling together bits and pieces of faiths to suit himself.

What did it matter, though? Dead was still dead, and the rest of them were still here.

CASS GLANCED BACK OVER HER SHOULDER AS THEY trailed the others back to the Box. The streets looked clear; there had been no Beater sightings for a couple of days. Randall moved among the graves, straightening the crosses and pulling weeds.

It wasn't much of a graveyard—the plot of land had once been a tiny park wedged between residential streets two blocks from the Box, but the trees that shaded it had died early enough in the Siege that someone had actually taken the trouble to cut them down to stumps and haul them away. Some of the graves were marked with crosses carved from wood, nailed together, finished to varying degrees. One small one was painted white, with tiny shells glued along the edges. Most of the crosses were raw, hastily made, not even sanded.

Some graves, like Gloria's, had no marker at all. For now, the dug and piled dirt marked its location, but it would not be long before the dirt would sink and level and no one would remember where she lay.

Had it been up to Cass, she would have left the few plants that sprouted this time of year. To her mind the reappearance of each plant Aftertime was a miracle in itself, and her garden in the Box had a small square marked out with stakes and twine for each native species she found on her walks. Firethorn, pepperweed, crupina. Each of them once assumed gone forever. Each—through what combination of God's will and hardiness and luck she had no idea—returned, pushing through the wasted crust of the forsaken earth.

Greg, Rae, Paul—once through the gates, they slipped off in different directions, not bothering with a goodbye, not even for Ruthie. Cass wasn't sure how much longer she could stay here in the Box, where gloom had settled and quashed her hopes that it was a place fit for raising her little girl. Before, people made an effort for a child, even one as silent and strange as Ruthie was now. Under the hat, her hair was as short as a boy's; in the Convent they had shaved all the children bald. But by spring Ruthie should have enough for a little pixie cut, something more girlie. Cass was self–conscious of her self–consciousness: surely survival was enough of a parlor trick; should children really have to do anything more?

There were no fat Gerber babies Aftertime. There were few babies at all. Starvation and the fever had taken so many, early on; the Beaters claimed many more. Cass knew firsthand how hard it was to look upon a child when your own was gone. But she had been given a second chance; she had gotten Ruthie back, and now she meant to cherish her. She would dress her in the prettiest things she could find. She would give her everything that the battered world could provide.

Ruthie's red coat was a gift from a quiet boy named Sam, who'd lost an eye in Yemen in the Rice Wars. He stopped by Cass and Smoke's tent after a raid and pulled it from his backpack, a soft, finely made woolen coat with carved shell buttons. He wouldn't trade for it, but he had accepted a cup of peppermint tea brewed from the last of Cass's herb garden before a hard freeze took all but the thyme and chervil. Sam wasn't a talker, but he loved Ruthie. He airplaned her squealing through the air, carried her around on his shoulders and let her crawl all over his long lanky legs. Cass suspected Sam had once had a little brother or sister, or perhaps a niece or nephew. Whoever the child was, they were long gone, leaving Sam with a few good moves and, perhaps, an empty place in his heart.

Meet the Author

Sophie Littlefield grew up in rural Missouri and attended college in Indiana. She worked in technology before having children, and was lucky enough to stay home with them while they were growing up. She writes novels for kids and adults, and lives in Northern California. Visit her online at www.SophieLittlefield.com.

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Rebirth 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 29 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
California is an apocalyptic catastrophe with the cannibalistic fresh flesh eating Beaters everywhere, but Cass Dollar feels good as she has rescued her daughter Ruthie though the child has become mute from the horrors she lived through and witnessed (see Aftertime). While Ruth struggles with her psychosomatic trauma, The Dollar females reside at the Box camp with the mom's lover Smoke. However though Cassie begs him not to, Smoke leaves on a vendetta. Just after he leaves, the encampment's leader Dor pleads with Cass to help him rescue his daughter; held prisoner by the ruthless Rebuilders. She wants to refuse as Ruth comes first and she fears the Box haven is falling apart, but Cassie also understands how Dor feels having gone on her impossible quest to save her daughter. The second Aftertime post apocalyptic thriller is an exciting tale that places a human cost on the pandemic catastrophe. Readers will feel for Ruthie who is a superb traumatized child and understand the dilemmas facing her mother including her caring for the two strong men in her life. Character driven yet packed with action, Rebirth is a vivid dark future fantasy. Harriet Klausner
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DRCSB More than 1 year ago
Even better than Aftertime.
Paperback_Princess More than 1 year ago
this book was great and I really enjoyed it. I did feel that when Smoke, Cass's current lover (because she never calls them boyfriends just lovers) ran off to avenge the death of his old girlfriend, Cass got sucked in with Dor, a whole new guy. Thats when I started to feel like I was watching a movie sequel where they couldn't get the hunk from the first movie to come back for the second so they threw in a new guy (ie Miss Congeniality 2 where Benjamin Bratt chose not to make an appearance). Anyway, Smoke missing was noted although sex was not missing from this book. Let me put this out there, I'm not super big on soft porn books. The romance section doesn't really have a pull for me, not that books I read are missing sex, but usually its not detailed, "gets the juices flowing" sex. This book has hot tamale sex and its not just once. I'll admit, it was a little weird to read about in the first book, but I was expecting it this time. There were times when I questioned Cass's love for Ruthie, there were moments where she twisted what she wanted to make it seem like it was for her daughter. When Cass made the decision to leave the Box, she made it sound like there was going to be nothing left for her and Ruthie, but until that happened her daughter was still recovering from an unknown terror and she had the guarantee that she would be provided for. In a world where Beaters were around every corner, why not take something that was for sure and trade it for a world of chance? Granted, if she hadn't traded for the world of chance, this book wouldn't have happened, but still. Not to mention the Rebuilders were a real class act. Just knowing how they operated from the last book was enough to make me think that going to them was just a bad idea. Another sick idea that I thought was fascinating was the harvesting outlier babies. I mean really, taking 14 year olds and forcing them to be pregnant. Even forcing the men to have vasectomy's was a little outrageous, somewhat understandable, but outrageous. And if you ask me, the Rebuilders should have been using all their fire power to kill the Beaters, not kill the people or attack people's settlements like the Library or the School. If you also read the short story, Survivors, that was supposed to be between Aftertime and Rebirth then, you should remember Feo, the little boy that came in with his grandmother. You should be pleased to know that he does make an appearance in this book, so he wasn't forgotten. I can't wait to read the third and I believe final installment in this series, Horizon. That came out last month, but it will probably take me a few years to get to it.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great depiction of a post apocalypse kind of california, complete with zombies and a strong female lead character who has control issues and an amazing will to survive. Cass Dollar is becoming one of my favorite female leads of all time. She's just messed up enough to feel real.
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Not enough. Not as good as the first but had to read it just in case something onteresting happened...and a few things did.
TerriAnn15 More than 1 year ago
"Rebirth" by Sophie Littlefield: Fast forward-distant future. California is virtually a ghost town compared to today's state. It's a devastated, raw, dog-eat-dog situation and no one is safe. Beaters are everywhere and they only want one thing.food-the human kind. Dor is a complicated changing mix of silence, mystery, humanness, and power as well as the head of the survivalist community known as The Order who lives in a place dubbed The Box. Cass Dollar has beaten horrible odds to get her missing mute daughter, Ruthie back. Cass survived an attack by the Beaters and is now known as an Outlier. Ruthie's one too, but no one knows that. Now the Builders want Cass so they can do tests and research on her in order to find a vaccine for others who have been attacked. Her partner/lover, Smoke, Dor's right hand man, is as mysterious as Dor when it comes to what he must do to keep those in The Order from harm's way. While Smoke is on a journey of revenge, Dor must leave their protected community on his own personal voyage to find his daughter Sammi. Cass decides she's going with him to help. She could be a bartering tool since the big deal with all of the survivalists who are still alive, is trade. So now the questions form: will Dor and Cass find Sammi? Will they suddenly find themselves caring for each other despite their insistence they wouldn't? Will Smoke survive his trek? Can Cass' heart heal after all she's endured since her daughter was first kidnapped? Most importantly, what are the intentions of the Rebuilder's in keeping some people alive? This book was even more fascinating than I expected. This story is a great example of how anything can be accomplished when pure, unbridled determination is the deciding factor. Even when faced with insurmountable odds, anything can happen. Reviewed by Terri Ann Armstrong, author of 'Morning Menace" & "Medieval Menace"
grumpydan More than 1 year ago
This is the second book in a series, and if you haven't read the first, you may be a little let down like I Was. I was looking for a post-apocalyptic-zombie story, but I guess that all happened in the first book. This one develops the character of Cass and the others more. Cass and her daughter Ruthie now live in Dor's domain called the Box. But Dor's daughter goes mizzing after an attack by the Rebuilders (not zombies), just another group of survivors and Cass and Dor go searching for her. A well written story, but more on character development and less on blood and gore. I will have to check out the first book (Aftertime) in the series.
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