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In a near future where climate change has severely affected weather and agriculture, the North End of an unnamed city has long been abandoned in favor of the neighboring South End. Aside from the scavengers steadily stripping the empty city to its bones, only a few thousand people remain, content to live quietly among the crumbling metropolis. Many, like the narrator, are there to try to escape the demons of their past. He spends his time observing and recording the decay around him, attempting to bury memories of what he has lost.
But it eventually becomes clear that things are unraveling elsewhere as well, as strangers, violent and desperate alike, begin to appear in the North End, spreading word of social and political deterioration in the South End and beyond. Faced with a growing disruption to his isolated life, the narrator discovers within himself a surprising need to resist losing the home he has created in this empty place. He and the rest of the citizens of the North End must choose whether to face outsiders as invaders or welcome them as neighbors.
The City Where We Once Lived is a haunting novel of the near future that combines a prescient look at how climate change and industrial flight will shape our world with a deeply personal story of one man running from his past. In lean, spare prose, Eric Barnes brings into sharp focus questions of how we come to call a place home and what is our capacity for violence when that home becomes threatened.
|Product dimensions:||6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Eric Barnes is the author of two previous novels, Shimmer and Something Pretty, Something Beautiful. He has published more than forty short stories in Prairie Schooner , North American Review , The Literary Review , Best American Mystery Stories , and other publications. By day, he is publisher of newspapers in Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga that cover business, politics, the arts, and more. On Fridays, he hosts a news talk show on his local PBS station. In the past, he was a reporter and editor in Connecticut and New York. Years ago he drove a forklift in Tacoma, Washington, and then Kenai, Alaska, worked construction on Puget Sound, and, many years ago, he graduated from the MFA writing program at Columbia University. He lives in Memphis, Tennessee.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In the future in an unknown time a city is divided between North and South. Climate change has wreaked havoc in this world and the North End has been abandoned by all but a few that have decided to try to make a living alone and scavenging. The majority of the populous has moved to the South End and seems to be making a recovery from all that has happened. The story is told by an unknown journalist that is hiding from the loss of his family and trying to record all that happens. But then something starts happening. Some people from the South have started coming to North End and started making trouble. Those in the North are going to have to come together and form the community that they have tried to give up without success if they plan on keeping their homes. This book is an interesting read. There is not a lot of action or major events happening, it’s more of a slow boil that gathers steam. There is not a lot going on in the first part of the book but a bleak, monotonous world that the narrator lives in. The action does pick up with the teenagers causing problems but it doesn’t really go anywhere. This is one of those books that I wanted more from and a better ending but at the same time I was invested in the story and didn’t want to put it down. It has the potential for a real action packed story but it just is there. I received a complimentary copy of this book. I voluntarily chose to read and post an honest review.
The City Where We Once Lived by Eric Barnes is a highly recommended look at a dying city that is part dystopian and part premonition. Our unnamed narrator is living in the North End of an unnamed city during an unnamed time. Many years ago the North End was abandoned and left to decay, while the population and resources went to the South End. There is a small population in the North End, a few thousand, spread out across many miles. They think that something in the ground is killing them because there are no mice or rats or cats or dogs or roaches. All the trees and plants are dead too. Extreme weather hits both North and South, but help is provided only for the South. Levees are breaking and flooding is increasing. The death of things is spreading. The small population stays in the North End, for reasons of their own, amid the decay. Our narrator is staying in the city to escape his past. He is the writer for the local paper, the only writer, and he photographs and records the indicators of the ensuing decline that will eventually mark the end of the North End. He burns down abandoned houses at night to alleviate his inner pain. The city commission doesn't care about what happens to them and most want to force them out of the North End. The water and electricity have been left on (although they are constantly threatened to be turned off by the commission), which allows the small population to stay there with a degree of comfort. They have set up a community, of sorts, with garbage collection and corner shops, and live there quietly. Scavengers clear remaining buildings of raw materials. There is also an increase of strangers coming to the North End. Some are simply trying to hide or escape the South and want to live quiet anonymous lives, but some are feckless teenagers, looking for trouble and violence. Soon, as it becomes clear that the people living in the North End must respond in some way to the strangers. The questions are: What is a community? What is your capacity for violence? What is your capacity for compassion? What is the right response? The City Where We Once Lived is extremely well written and Barnes keeps the same heavy tone throughout the novel. It is a slow moving, relentlessly desolate, bleak novel that offers little impetus to keep following our unnamed narrator who seems captive to a existence full of depression and despondency. The second half of the book is better than the first, but the first sets the dreary, hopeless, aimless tone to the novel and captures the idea of living in a decaying no-man's-land with other unnamed survivors in a loosely organized community of sorts. The second half, although still much in keeping with the tone of the first part, does have a bit more plot to it and continues to reach a conclusion that offers a slight, meager sliver of something close to hope. It also gives us some insight into our unnamed narrator and why he felt the need to distance himself from society. (This was a hard one for me to rate. perhaps a 4.5 but...) Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Arcade Publishing.