The Rending and the Nest

The Rending and the Nest opens on an eerie post-apocalyptic landscape in what used to be Minnesota: the majority of the world's population has disappeared in an instant known to survivors as the Rending. Piles of items from "the Before" are scattered mile-high across the countryside. Mira and her best friend Lana are scavenging one of these Piles several years after the Rending when Lana announces she is pregnant. Hers is the first pregnancy post-Rending, and a reason for hope in this strange new world. But when Lana gives birth to an inanimate object--and other women start to do the same--this moment of hope becomes a new kind of horror, as the survivors are forced to face the disturbing reality of their new lives in ways they could never have imagined.

Kaethe Schwehn (Tailings) builds her story slowly at first, giving readers time to adjust to a world that is eerily recognizable and yet entirely foreign. As the novel develops, this slow pace gives way to a furious speed that is reflective of the ever-shifting understanding Mira and her friends have of their new world. Their landscape offers no "why"; the Rending remains unexplained from start to finish, the world "a driftless, invisible unknown." But by accepting the event as something that just is, Schwehn--and her characters--are free to explore more important questions about what it means to really live: Is surviving enough? If not, what makes a life worth living? And what stories do we tell ourselves--and one another--to make it so? --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

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