Linda Howard and Linda Jones
William Morrow Pub.
March 31st, 2020
After Sundown by Linda Howard and Linda Jones is a very relevant story. It will sound familiar to those who have sheltered in place during this pandemic. The timing could not be better with panic surrounding certain aspects of the coronavirus, and in this book the panic surrounds preparation and fallout from a solar storm.
The authors explained, “We get a lot of calls asking us how to prepare. We have become Survivalist experts. We actually put in the book about a toilet paper shortage with the quote, “she grabbed more toilet paper.” We wrote the book to entertain, but also to have people thinking about being prepared. There is a need for food, water, toilet paper, batteries, enough medication, and food for your dog. Modern technology is important, but there is also a need to have tools where someone could get by without it.”
A quote in the book is surreal considering what is going on today. “They walked in the middle of the road… there was no traffic at all. Walking in the middle of the usually busy highway felt both daring and freeing, and the fact that they could was one more example of how drastically their world had changed in a single day.”
Readers are introduced to Ben Jernigan, a recluse who has settled on top of a mountain outside of the small community of Wears Valley, Tennessee, after he got out of the Marines two years ago. Going against his solitary nature, he finds himself forewarning Sela Gordon, the owner of a small grocery store and gas station he occasionally uses. He tells her of a catastrophic solar storm that will take down the global power grid in less than 24 hours. She doesn’t quite believe him, but gathers supplies just in case. When the grid goes down as predicted, Sela and her neighbors are plunged into a new world order. Money has no meaning, gasoline is gold, and people must band together as food and other supplies dwindle. There is no electricity, no cell phones, TV, or computers; no more grocery stores, gas stations, warm water, or washing machines, and no more hospitals and medications. Unlike today, where people need to self-isolate, the town of Wears Valley was community isolating, where residents pull together to do what they must to survive and maintain social order.
“We wrote Ben as a retired Marine. He distrusts bureaucracy and we showed this by the book quote, ‘“After years of combat and dealing with bureaucrats who didn’t know their asses from a hole in the ground, but were never-the-less in charge of life and death concerning him and his men.’ His time in the military affected him and he got PTSD. After he got out he became a loner, talking more to his dog than anyone. If not for the crisis he and Sela would never have had a conversation. He is fallacious, a man every woman wants. He is handy, a decision maker, pragmatic, and a man of action. We gave him nicknames of “sweet bun,” Hottie McHot Hot, “Buns of Steel,” and “Stud Muffin.””
Knowing she needs to protect her aunt, niece, and some elderly friends Sela realizes a community council must be formed. Due to unforeseen circumstances she is chosen as its leader; a role she feels she is not comfortable or suited for. Events sometimes lead people to find in themselves traits that they do not realize existed. Sela grew from a shy and insecure woman to an independent, take charge person, while Ben wanted to be a hermit and didn’t want to deal with people, but Sela changed him. They complimented each other. He became protective, strong, and determined, and used his resourceful skills of surviving to help Sela, her family, her friends, and the community to stay safe. The relationship grew from a mutual attraction to a passionate love where both solitary people realized how much they needed and wanted each other.
“We wanted to show Sela as shy, a thinker, logical, compassionate, and caring. Overall, she did not have much self-confidence, and is quiet. Sela is a risk-taker who will put herself in harm’s way to protect the people she loves.”
The book starts quickly and the action never stops. It shows how people during a disaster can step up to the plate, exhibiting spunk and courage as they adapt to a new life. The story shows how events can bring out either the good or the bad in people. It is relevant to the current situation, while not a pandemic, the natural disaster has the potential to be as deadly or even more so with millions of people dying from both natural and manmade causes.