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  • Writer's pictureEmily

The Disinvited Guest and Sea of Tranquility: the pandemic books are upon us

I have been wanting to re-read Station 11 for a couple of years now, but I couldn't read a pandemic book during the pandemic. It's weird, because I can't remember the book that well- just that I really liked it, and there was a scary pandemic. Well, a pandemic shows up again in Mandel's Sea of Tranquility and I made it out OK, so maybe I can try Station 11 again.

Goodman, Carol- The Disinvited Guest

Mandel, Emily St. John- Sea of Tranquility

The Disinvited Guest

I read some readers' reviews of this that were not very encouraging, but I thought it was an interesting premise, so I decided to try it anyway. I'm glad I did; I thought it was a weird little book, pleasantly suspenseful, and not too depressing for a pandemic book. The story is mostly set sometime around 2030- I don't know if it says exactly, but ten years out from this pandemic. They are in a new pandemic, so the MC (Lucy) is comparing this experience with her memories of COVID-19. The characters, seven of them, decide to hole up at a summer house on an island off the coast of Maine. Two of the party grew up there; one of them is Lucy's husband. I like books with interesting settings, and this one is in a big, old house with lots of history on a mysterious island.

Part of the story is about Lucy trying to figure out what happened on that island with her husband's family ten years ago, when she wasn't there, and another part is much farther back, when the island was a quarantine during a typhus epidemic. This is alot of sickness for a book that didn't stress me out or make me sad. It has a touch of supernatural scariness and the more-relatable horror of trying to be polite to your friend's husband that nobody likes. I read it in three days, and I had another book that I was reading and had a headache at that time, so it was a breeze. A plague-ridden, bedeviled breeze, but enjoyable.

Notes: 1) This is the second Carol Goodman book I've read recently; I listened to The Lake of Dead Languages earlier this year. 2) That one also had a character named Lucy. 3) is having an awful time finding this book, maybe because it doesn't recognize the word disinvited? But I found it and linked it above.

Sea of Tranquility

I love this kind of science fiction. People are living on the moon, but it's just taken for granted. I mean, there's not alot of information about the ships that took them there, or how the air filters work. It's just their home. It talks about what it's like for someone who grew up on the moon to visit Earth. What they miss, what they want to take back. I've only read Station 11 and The Glass Hotel by Emily St John Mandel, and I liked them both very much. While I was reading this book, I thought that it referenced both of those books, but now I can't remember a clear reference to Station 11; both books have pandemics, but I'm not sure it's the same one. Anyway, anyone new to this author could start here, I believe. (SPOILER AHEAD) There's even some time travel, which I love. I think that this author is going to be one that I always read from now on. I liked that there were different strands of story that didn't immediately seem to be connected, and then the clues to the connection start coming out, and after that I was hooked.

I think anyone who likes literary sci-fi and/or time-travel will like this. (/END SPOILER)

I was one of the scaredy-cats who was stressed-out for about two full years, wearing masks everywhere, and felt like it was Christmas when I got my first vaccine appointment. (I'm scared of everything that can fly up my nose and kill me.) For the last six months or so, it has been easier- I still carry masks around and wear them inside in crowded places, but my part of the world has been going lower in COVID cases pretty steadily. Now, we're having flu/RSV/probably more stuff trouble, and I was glad that I still had my masks handy. So, I read these books without freaking out, and I am hoping that I can be less careful about my reading.

In 2021, I set myself a pretty ambitious goal of reading some harder books that I've always meant to read- things I've put off because they're intimidating (Moby Dick) or will probably make me incredibly sad (Beloved.) I thought that we'd be past the pandemic in that year (ha!), so deciding to read all these hard books just seemed like a good challenge. I read two, maybe three of the books on that list; ones that didn't seem as intimidating and with which I already had some familiarity from school.

I don't know if we're getting back to normal, or what that means now, but I hope that in the next year, I can be less careful with myself and what I read. I'm not ready to tackle any of the serious, non-fiction books about the pandemic yet because I think they'll be too rage-inducing, but someday.

If anyone has read a good non-fic book about the pandemic, I would like to start keeping some titles, so please leave a comment.

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