The City Where We Once Lived

Allowed to continue unchecked, climate change and growing lack of compassion could most certainly play out as they do in Eric Barnes's prescient third novel, The City Where We Once Lived. Barnes (Shimmer) has constructed an intricate apocalyptic world that frighteningly mirrors present-day reality.

Ravaged by weather and industrial decline, North End is down to 2,000 stalwart residents who did not relocate to thriving South End. North End is viewed as a lawless land of isolationists and scavengers stripping it to its core; its people cultivate that façade to discourage trouble-seeking South Enders from traversing the remaining overpass into their peaceful domain.

Barnes provides a haunting portrait of the future through the eyes of a narrator who spends his days memorializing North End for the eight-page newspaper. Living in a deserted hotel, the narrator describes his daily excursions and increasing interactions with new people in the area. Some evoke hope, while others threaten the order--evidence South End may not be as stable as it appears.

When tragedy strikes, the haves are forced to rely on the have-nots, further bridging North and South Ends in a way neither populace desires. Through stark yet intimate prose, Barnes explores themes of separatism and displacement and how the lenses we look through are often distorted by lack of connection and empathy. He offers a cautionary tale about a world that feels a hair's-breadth away. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review

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