Some readers will open Meg Little Reilly’s novel and come to certain conclusions about the starring couple. Ash and Pia are from gentrified Brooklyn, but when the book begins, they’ve fled to Vermont, Ash’s natal state, in an attempt to live more “naturally.” Since the book is narrated by Ash in hindsight, we learn he’s survived a storm that makes Superstorm Sandy look like a breezy day at the beach. At last, some may think, the yuppies get theirs.
The problem with this schadenfreude is that the nice, solid, longtime citizens of Isole, Vermont, also get theirs when this storm hits. Even before the apocalypse—and Reilly is masterful at keeping this meteorological monster offstage until the right time—the ties that bind this little community begin to unravel. Ash and Pia’s marriage begins to fracture under the sheer stress of waiting for something to happen.
Neither Ash nor Pia is particularly embraceable, but Reilly has created likable secondary characters: Peg, the nature-loving scientist neighbor; Crow, the hippie/survivalist/loner; Maggie, the doughty schoolteacher; and August, the half-wild boy whom Ash befriends. Suspense comes from wondering who will survive and what the world will look like once this storm has come and gone.
Though writers have long warned us about what happens when humans mess with nature in general and the weather in particular, We Are Unprepared might be in the vanguard of tales that deal with the consequences of human-caused climate change. As such, it is an admirable example of the genre.