The cover copy states that “hope is a fragile thing,” yet this brilliant little book is full of it. Despite having an overwhelming number of things to despair about, the narrator, Tetley Abednego, feels herself beloved and living in a most wonderful place.

Tetley’s world is a dire post-climate-change future where dry land no longer exists and only a few humans, mostly those with boats, survived. But some of the poorest people seemingly found a floating pile of all of the unused things from our age, which had inexplicably been sorted by type. Tetley lives on this floating Garbagetown, well after the environmental disasters and the Great Sorting. She is born in Candle Hole, walks to Electric City to get her name, and travels as far as Pill Hill to find her destiny.

Everywhere she looks on her island of garbage, Tetley sees beauty and love. There are gorgeous sunsets over mounds of partly-used candles, lovely colors in backlit piles of pill bottles, amazing creatures (many dangerous), and interesting humans (who mostly hate her). The book is a reminder that even people living in circumstances that seem impossible can find happiness and moments of poetic beauty. It gives me hope that the world my generation (which Tetley calls the Fuckwits) is leaving behind will not be entirely filled with horror.


The Past is Red by Catherynne M. Valente — No Comments

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