From an advanced reader copy.
This novel was so lovely and poetic, a post apocalyptic story reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy's The Road, but a very different story at the same time. Hig, the narrator, is a man who has survived a flu pandemic, that has changed life in the United States as we know it completely, wiping out most of the population. Those who have survived seem to be subject to some kind of contagious auto-immune disorder of the blood as well, that has continued to decimate the population, and a certain amount of climate change has become noticeable as well.
Hig is a very sad man, having lost his wife, but he appreciates the quietness of this new world. he is a gardener and a hunter, and has a strong relationship with the natural world around him, as well as his dog, Jasper, his little airplane (The Beast) and Bangley, his neighbor in their isolated outpost. Bangley loves guns, and does a great job of protecting them from the occasional marauders looking for, well, anything they can get their hands on (food, weapons, etc.), and willing to kill (and die) to get it.
Hig is tortured by a call over an airport he heard a few years back, while out in his plane one day. Should he risk it all to try and find other survivors, when just seeing another human being now almost requires 'a shoot first and ask questions later' attitude? Hig does not embrace that attitude, although Bangley, an older man, insists it is the only way to survive. Hig needs more from this life. He sets out to find more after a revelatory week alone in the forest.
This was a heartrendingly beautiful story. The writing is wonderful, Heller's descriptions of nature and of the human condition are gorgeous and moving. Hig's existential ramblings and thoughts while by himself also reminded me of Antoine de Saint Exupery's The Little Prince and Night Flight. This book is the definition of breathtaking. My only complaint is that there are not another 300 pages...too short. I hope Heller writes more fiction. I adored this book.
Highly recommend for fans of books like The Road by Cormac McCarthy, The Age Of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker and Earth Abides by George R. Stewart.