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Salvation City is a coming-of-age tale that is complicated by far more than the usual adolescent angst. Thirteen-year-old Cole has lost both parents to a flu pandemic and nearly dies himself. The pandemic has ripped apart the United States, leaving massive death and infrastructure collapse with little help to be found. Having lost his family, home, and all of his possessions, Cole initially ends up in an orphanage and is eventually placed with an Evangelical family in the tiny town of Salvation City, Indiana. Nunez does a beautiful job of depicting both Fundamental Christianity and staunch atheism without demonizing either side, and while her characters heatedly argue about their beliefs, she portrays them gracefully. She illustrates how there can be humanity on both sides.
Miles away (both physically and culturally) from his family of origin, Cole becomes simply an observer in his own life, so confused is he about the turn his life has taken. He finally finds his own voice only after a crisis looms in Salvation City (which may portend the end of the world... or perhaps not). Full of small moments that are quiet, dark, sweet, bitter, harrowing, breathless, joyful, and just plain sad, the story unfolds as Cole begins to understand, or at least have an inkling about, his own life. Impeccably written, Salvation City is a wonder.
Synopses & Reviews
From the critically acclaimed author of The Last of Her Kind, a breakout novel that imagines the aftermath of pandemic flu, as seen through the eyes of a thirteen-year-old boy uncertain of his destiny.
His family's sole survivor after a flu pandemic has killed large numbers of people worldwide, Cole Vining is lucky to have found refuge with the evangelical Pastor Wyatt and his wife in a small town in southern Indiana. As the world outside has grown increasingly anarchic, Salvation City has been spared much of the devastation, and its residents have renewed their preparations for the Rapture.
Grateful for the shelter and love of his foster family (and relieved to have been saved from the horrid, overrun orphanages that have sprung up around the country), Cole begins to form relationships within the larger community. But despite his affection for this place, he struggles with memories of the very different world in which he was reared. Is there room to love both Wyatt and his parents? Are they still his parents if they are no longer there? As others around him grow increasingly fixated on the hope of salvation and the new life to come through the imminent Rapture, Cole begins to conceive of a different future for himself, one in which his own dreams of heroism seem within reach.
Written in Sigrid Nunez's deceptively simple style, Salvation City is a story of love, betrayal, and forgiveness, weaving the deeply affecting story of a young boy's transformation with a profound meditation on the meaning of belief and heroism.
"The intellectually rigorous and grimly prophetic latest from Nunez (The Last of Her Kind) initially resembles any number of coming-of-age yarns, except that most adolescences don't coincide with apocalyptic flu pandemics and the rise of insular church-cities. Cole Vining, however, is not so fortunate: already struggling with a relocation from Chicago to penny-ante Indiana and the mystery of sexual desire, the near destruction of the human race (Cole's parents among them) launches Cole into a rudderless future of nightmarish orphanages and angelic 'rapture children.' Rescued by the charismatic and deceptive Pastor Wyatt, Cole is brought to Salvation City, a Christian Mission closed off from the crumbling world. There, Cole's education will resume with religious indoctrination in place of his parents' secular cynicism, and his evolving sense of self will collide with the corruption and hypocrisy lurking beneath Salvation's sanctified facade. The great success of Nunez's book is that the end of the world is filtered through Cole's imperfect perspective, so that the collapse of society is no more devastating than first love, and deeply felt conflict rages as a young man tries to find something worth preserving in a place determined to obliterate the past. (Sept)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
A provocative novel set in the near future, about what happens when the whole world falls apart.
After a flu pandemic has killed large numbers of people worldwide, the United States has grown increasingly anarchic. Large numbers of children are stranded in orphanages, and systems we take for granted are fraying at the seams. When orphaned Cole Vining finds refuge with an evangelical pastor and his young wife in a small Indiana town, he knows he is one of the lucky ones. Sheltered Salvation City has been spared much of the devastation of the outside world.
But it's a starkly different community from the one Cole has known, and he struggles with what this changed world means for him. As those around him become increasingly fixated on their vision of utopia - so different from his own parents' dreams - Cole begins to imagine a new and different future for himself.
Written in Sigrid Nunez's deceptively simple style, Salvation City is a story of love, betrayal, and forgiveness, weaving the deeply affecting story of a young boy's transformation with a profound meditation on the true meaning of salvation.
About the Author
Sigrid Nunez is the author of the novels The Last of Her Kind, A Feather on the Breath of God, and For Rouenna, among others. She has been the recipient of several awards including a Whiting Writers' Award, the Rome Prize in Literature, and a Berlin Prize Fellowship. She lives in New York City.
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