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The pesthouse : a novel
Jim Crace
Adult Fiction CRACE

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From Publishers' Weekly:

In this postapocalyptic picaresque from Whitbread-winner Crace (for Quarantine), America has regressed to medieval conditions. After a forgotten eco-reaction in the distant past, the U.S. government, economy and society have collapsed. The illiterate inhabitants ride horses, fight with bows and swords and scratch a meager living from farming and fishing. But with crop yields and fish runs mysteriously dwindling, most are trekking to the Atlantic coast to take ships to the promised land of Europe, gawking along the way at the ruins of freeways and machinery yards, which seem the wasteful excesses of giants. Heading east, naive farm boy Franklin teams up with Margaret, a recovering victim of the mysterious "flux" whose shaven head (mark of the unclean) causes passersby to shun her. Their love blossoms amid misadventures in an anarchic landscape: Franklin is abducted by slave-traders; Margaret falls in with a religious sect that bans metal and deplores manual labor, symbolically repudiating America's traditional cult of progress, technology and industriousness (masculinity takes some hits, too). Crace's ninth novel leaves the U.S. impoverished, backward, fearful and abandoned by history. Less crushing than Cormac McCarthy's The Road and less over-the-top than Matthew Sharpe's Jamestown (to name two recent postapocalyptos), Crace's fable is an engrossing, if not completely convincing, outline of the shape of things to come. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

In a new work that recalls his fabulist landscapes of old, Crace takes us on a journey through a devastated America, as a man limping with his brother toward the ocean forms real bonds with a mortally ill woman. With a national tour. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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main characters Franklin Lopez
Trekking across the country to get a ship to take him to Europe; crippled by an inflamed knee; falls in love with Margaret; abducted by slave traders.

Jackson Lopez
Franklin's brother; making the journey across the country to start over in Europe.

Has a deadly infection; confined to a stone building to get rid of her fever; has a shaven head to mark her as unclean; falls in love with Franklin; joins a religious sect that bans metal and manual labor.

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