Follow Here To Purchase Etiquette for an Apocalypse

Author: Anne Mendel

Publisher: Brackets Press

ISBN:  9780984893003

Apocalyptic doom has inspired some of the world’s greatest art, from Michelangelo’s shiveringly sublime Sistine Chapel fresco The Last Judgment, to Samuel Beckett’s enigmatic, austere Waiting for Godot, and even kitchy, catchy classics like the 1980s rock band REM’s song “It’s the End of the World as We Know it” or Mel Gibson’s The Road Warrior. There’s something about possible total annihilation that seems to really inspire some artists.

Much of the aesthetic response in these game-over scenarios ping-pongs between grim acceptance and warlike defiance. But in Anne Mendel’s gripping new novel, Etiquette for an Apocalypse, the response to the end of days is more feisty than funereal. In this darkly compelling work, Mendel makes us understand that what we’ll miss most when the hour is bleakest are the small, daily gifts: a schmeer of Nutella, the gentle graze of squeezeable Charmin, kibble for the kitty.

Mendel has written a wonderfully tart book, highly original in its post-apocalyptic hierarchy, cinematic in its grimy, goofy characters and harrowing enough to appeal to the die hard dystopian fiction fan. The heroine of the book, Sophie Cohen, is a mother, daughter, and wife – at least those used to be apt descriptors. In her new incarnation, after a series of natural cataclysms destroys the infrastructure – physical and social – of her region of the United States, she is defined more by her survival instincts (which are, to say the least, considerable). But what makes her such an endearing guide to the hellish post-normal-world is how she refuses to capitulate to the mental torment her daily life has become. She fiercely clings to a redemptive vision, and refuses to obliterate her identity as mother, daughter, and wife, and in the back of her mind – as she’s slithering through sewer pipes on the run from gun-toting vigilantes or hiding bombs in her underwear and facing down assassins – she both tortures and soothes her wounded psyche by thinking of the grudging smile of her teenaged daughter, or the unexpected spark of her taciturn husband’s touch. These moments of unexpected visitation from her previous happy and settled life are as energizing as they are enervating.

The plot of the book involves Sophie’s travails as she and her family – and a network of confederates whose lives were all severely upended by the tumult of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, a general breakdown in law and order, looting, and a Lord-of-the-Flies re-ordering of society – struggle to fight malnutrition, disease, rape, murder, and mutiny. Mendel’s writing is pitch perfect for her situation, the dialogue grimly realistic. Sophie can wax rhapsodic about the long-lost glories of clean linen, or swear like a biker when facing down a threatening marauder. To my ear, both the book’s profundities, and its profanities, rang true.

Etiquette for an Apocalypse is a starkly realized and sure-handed original work of fiction, highly entertaining and highly recommended. Though it might not, like Michelangelo’s seminal work, leave you mumbling incantations to a higher power, it will most certainly leave you craving several large spoonfuls of Nutella.

Follow Here To Purchase Etiquette for an Apocalypse