Hold On to That Ball’s Blue Book
Ignore the title and the terrible cover, and see Restoring Harmony (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, $17.99) for the enjoyable all-too-possible dystopian book it actually is. Joëlle Anthony’s first novel, set in 2041 after “the Collapse” (yes! Almost all of the oil has run out — shocker!), will feel utterly familiar and yet oddly alien to anyone living in the Pacific Northwest.
The protagonist, Molly, lives on a small farming island in British Columbia (ahem, like the author), where the 16-year-old girl’s mother is pregnant and dealing with high blood pressure and a lot of other kids. When the island’s doctor dies in an accident, Molly sets off on a quest. To Gresham.
Using some of the family’s precious money to buy plane and train tickets, carrying her Canadian passport and hoping against hope she’ll find her doctor grandfather and her grandmother, who recently had a stroke and may not be alive, Molly heads out to our state’s big city. Portland still has a MAX, of a sort, and because it’s on two rivers (good planning, founders!), it’s got commerce and some jobs.
Molly doesn’t actually have enough funding, and she loses something she really needs, so it’s a damn good thing she’s got mad crazy gardening, canning and fiddling skills. That’s where some of the recognition and fun come in: Many people living in Gresham (or Eugene) already grow and preserve their own food. Anthony uses the familiar to make the strange (horse-drawn delivery carts? Password-coded stun guns?) all the more odd. Restoring Harmony is a slightly hopeful future shock novel set in our area — who could say no? I couldn’t. It’s a great summer read … before you start putting up the food for winter. — Suzi Steffen