Everything seems quiet on Ann Brooks’s suburban cul-de-sac. Despite her impending divorce, she’s created a happy home and her daughters are adjusting to the change. She feels lucky to be in a supportive community and confident that she can handle any other hardship that life may throw her way. But then, right before Thanksgiving, a crisis strikes that turns everybody’s world upside down. Suddenly her estranged husband is forced back onto her doorstep, bringing with him his beautiful graduate assistant. Trapped inside the house she once called home, confronted by challenges she never could have imagined, Ann must make life-or-death decisions in an environment where the simple act of opening a door to a neighbor could jeopardize all she holds dear.
The choices she makes will impact the lives of those around her irrevocably and linger in the reader’s memory in this marvelous first novel, written with authority, grace, and wisdom.
About the Author
Carla Buckley lives in Chapel Hill, NC, with her husband, an environmental scientist, and their three children. She serves on the Board of the International Thriller Writers as Vice President of Awards, and is the international bestselling author of Invisible and The Things That Keep Us Here, which was nominated for a Thriller Award as a best first novel and the Ohioana Book Award for fiction.
Read an Excerpt
Peter wedged his jacket into the hall closet beside the girls’ coats, their cheerful colors standing out against the tan of his jacket and the sober maroon of Ann’s coat, the same one she’d had for years. Boots stood on the floor below—Maddie’s mauve leopard print, Ann’s stubby brown ones, and a sleek black pair with designs stitched into the leather with white thread. Kate’s, probably. She’d always loved cowboy boots. He remembered her first pair, a bright cherry color, that she loved so much she insisted on wearing them everywhere, to the store, on playdates, even to bed. After she’d fallen asleep, either he or Ann would tiptoe in and gently ease the boots off her feet. But then, sure enough, the next morning she’d appear in the kitchen doorway, yawning, still in her nightgown and wearing those boots. How old had she been, two? Maybe three. She’d cried so when she finally outgrew them and Ann couldn’t find a pair in a larger size.
In the kitchen, Ann was tearing open a box of pasta and dumping its contents into a pot of bubbling water. She looked up as he approached, and she swept back a strand of hair from her face with the back of her hand. “It’s just sauce from a jar tonight.”
Peter thought of her homemade marinara, rich with chopped onion and garlic and bell peppers. He wondered if this hasty meal was a result of her working full- time or if this was just the way she and the girls ate now. Somehow, he’d thought all three would be frozen in time, doing the same things the same way they always had, just without him. “Smells good.”
“Get out the Parmesan, Maddie,” Ann said. “Kate, please set the table.” She glanced over her shoulder at Peter. “I think there’s a bottle of wine in the basement if you want to hunt it up.”
He found it easily enough, lying in the wine rack above the mini- refrigerator, just where he’d left it. Rubbing away the dust from the smooth glass shoulders of the bottle, he came back into the kitchen. Maddie was pouring cheese into a small bowl while Kate spread place mats across the kitchen table. Shazia stood by the sink, a water glass in her hand.
He winked at her and she smiled.
Ann stirred the pasta. “Do you have a lot of family in Cairo, Shazia?”
“All my family’s there,” Shazia replied. “My brother, my sister, my parents. My father comes from a large family. He’s one of ten children.”
“Ten!” Maddie said. “That’s practically a soccer team.”
Shazia smiled. “I have a lot of cousins.”
“I can imagine,” Ann said. “What does your father do?”
“He’s a medical doctor.”
“And you’re getting your PhD. He must be very proud of you.”
“Shazia went to Oxford.” Peter opened a drawer and began hunting for a corkscrew among the rattle of spoons and spatulas. “And she got her DVM in Cairo.”
“Impressive.” Ann brought out a loaf of bread and began to slice it. “So, you’re making the switch from veterinary medicine to research?” Peter knew what Ann was thinking. He’d made the same career jump. He remembered telling Ann he was entering research. He’d leaned across the table and clasped her hands in his. Later, she’d confided she thought he was about to propose. When that time did come, it was over a table, too, and there was candlelight and wine. He looked down at the bottle in his hands and got busy.
“I read one of Peter’s articles online,” Shazia said. “It was very persuasive. He said the best way to make a real difference in animal health was through research.”
“I like your phone,” Kate said. “It’s such a cool color.”
“Look how tiny the keypad is,” Shazia said, pulling it from her pocket.
“How are you finding Columbus?” Ann asked. “It must be quite a change from Oxford and Cairo.”
Shazia laughed. “In many ways, yes. But it’s actually been an easier adjustment than I expected. People have been very welcoming. There are lots of international students here.”
Peter held up the wine bottle and Shazia shook her head. She set down her water glass. “If you don’t mind, I think I’ll go lie down. I have a terrible headache.”
“Of course.” Ann wiped her hands on a dishtowel. “Let me show you your room and get you some towels. Peter, would you dish the girls up?”
She said it so casually. Dish the girls up. One of the shorthand expressions they used to use all the time. Surprising how nostalgic he felt hearing it again. Staying here was going to be more difficult than he’d realized. He watched Ann climb the stairs, her voice floating lightly down as she talked to Shazia, showing her around, welcoming her into what would be her home, too, for a little while.
After dinner, peter stood in the doorway of maddie’s room. Dishes clattered from the kitchen below as Ann cleaned up.
Shazia was in the guest room down the hall. He heard the soft murmur of her voice and guessed she was on the phone.
He put his hands on his hips. “You’re sure you brushed your teeth, Maddie?”
She giggled from where she lay in bed. “Yes, Daddy.”
“Because I’m not coming in if you haven’t.”
“I have. I swear.”
“All right then.” He reached down to turn on the nightlight, then straightened and switched off the overhead light. The room was bathed in a soft glow. He made his way to her bed and sat down beside her.
Maddie lay back against her pillow and looked up at him seriously. His eyes adjusted to the darkness, and now he could see her features, the rounded curves of her cheeks, the sleepy slants of her eyes so like Ann’s. He’d noticed that she’d lost another tooth, a bottom one along the side. What was the Tooth Fairy bringing these days? The going rate used to be five bucks. Once they couldn’t rummage up enough bills between them to slide under seven- year- old Kate’s pillow. In triumph, he had produced a Lowe’s gift card. So much laughter. They should have saved some of it for the years to come.
Maddie said, “My teacher told us that birds are making people sick.”
“ Uh- huh.”
She frowned. “You’re around birds all the time.”
“Well, that’s true. But I wear a special suit. Did you know that?”
“No. It has a mask and goggles to keep infection from getting through and gloves to protect my hands. Sometimes I put on white overalls so I don’t spread the infection around.”
“And you wear that all the time?”
“Oh, yes. Whenever I go in the field. I keep all that stuff in my truck.”
“Do we need suits? Kate, Mommy, and me?”
“No. I don’t think so.” He brushed the hair back from her forehead.
“Now I lay me down to sleep.”
“I pray the Lord my soul to keep. May God’s love be with me through the night and wake me with the morning light.” She yawned and smiled up at him.
He kissed her cheek, so soft and warm. He’d missed this. “Good night, Maddie girl.”
He was at her doorway when she spoke up again.
“Are you and Mom still having a divorce?”
Poor Maddie. This turn of events must be so confusing for her. “Yes, sweetheart,” he said gently. “We are.”
Kate was a mound of blankets in the deep gloom of her bedroom, leaning up against her headboard, waiting for him. “Hey,” she said as he sat heavily on her bed.
He leaned forward and kissed the top of her head. “Hey. You ever clean this place?”
“Only when Mom threatens to take away my phone.”
She’d been dabbing on perfume again, its sweetness mingling with the fruity aroma of her shampoo and the mint of her toothpaste. He remembered the days when they had to plead with Kate to take a bath. When she was six, they had to stand over her to get her to brush her teeth.
“How long are you staying?” she asked.
“Maybe a few days. We’ll see.”
She bit her lower lip. “This is really serious, isn’t it?”
“People are dying, right?”
“Do you know anyone who’s died?”
He thought about that, then shook his head. “No one I know of, honey. Certainly no one here.”
“Are we going to die?”
He picked up her stuffed owl, limp with age, its beak hanging on by a few stitches. Where had this come from? He hadn’t seen it in years. She leaned forward, and he settled it behind her head. How his daughter could sleep without a pillow was beyond him, but she never complained of a sore neck. “I know things seem to have happened awfully fast. But scientists and governments have been working on this problem for a long time. We knew this was coming. We just didn’t know when. There are all sorts of plans and procedures in place to protect us.”
“Like closing school?”
“Exactly. Which is a very smart thing to do. If we can keep people from catching it from one another, we can give scientists time to work on a vaccine.”
She made a face. “That means a shot.”
If only it were that simple.
“Just think,” he said, rising. “No school tomorrow. You can IM to your heart’s content.”
“No one IMs anymore, Dad.”
“Ah.” These were the things he missed so painfully: the lost tooth, the backpack exchanged for a floppy bag, no more chocolate syrup stirred into milk. These next few days would be an unexpected gift, a chance to reconnect with his daughters. “Well, then you can text to your heart’s content.”
“Right. Tell Mom that.” She yawned and turned over. “Good night, Dad.”
That was another thing: Dad instead of Daddy. Maybe that was the thing he missed the most.
Ann was up when peter came into the kitchen early the next morning. She stood by the coffeemaker, her hand on the pot handle, waiting for the water to stop dripping. She wore her old blue terry robe with the sagging pockets, and her hair was mussed. She wasn’t one for predawn conversation, so he was surprised when she spoke. “Coffee?”
“Please.” He’d missed her coffee. Every pot he brewed was either bitter sludge or tasteless brown water.
“Really.” She handed him a mug, the one Kate had painted at a long- ago birthday party, the orange happy face faded now from so many washings. “Beth says that sofa’s a medieval torture device.” Ann’s sister had known what she was talking about. There was a certain pernicious spring that dug into his ribs whenever he turned over. “It’s like the Four Seasons compared to the one in my apartment. Speaking of which, I’m going to head in and grab some clothes.”
She nodded toward the television set playing quietly in the family room. “They’re reporting a few cases in Mexico now.”
Already? He lifted his mug so she couldn’t see his expression. Mexico was close. There were all sorts of migrations between Mexico and the United States, human and otherwise. So the latest modeling studies had been correct: restricting air travel had had little effect on containing the spread of the virus.
She poured coffee into a second mug and pushed the pot back onto the burner. “Nothing in Egypt, though. Did Shazia reach her parents?”
“Not that I know of.” He drank some coffee. No cream, of course, but he could make do with some milk.
“They must be so worried. Well, maybe they’ll talk today.” She sipped her coffee. “Hamburgers sound okay for dinner?”
“Sure.” He’d forgotten this, the way- too- early decision- making about what to have for dinner. He didn’t care what they ate. He never had, but Ann had always needed to regiment her day into segments. Errand time, laundry time, mealtime. It was how she’d coped as a stay- at- home mother. He wondered if things were different now that she’d gone back to work.
He reached into the refrigerator for the milk. “How are you for cash?”
“The ATMs were cleaned out by the time we got to the bank.”
“They should be up and running now. I’ll get water, too.”
“It was horrible last night.”
“Sounds like it.” At least she’d come away with only a bruised shin. It could have been worse.
“That shooting at Kroger?” She shook her head. “They said on the news that it was over a parking space.”
He couldn’t believe it, either. “Well, things should have calmed down.” He was here now. If anyone would be going to the store, it would be him. “Ann?”
She looked over.
“You know we can’t let the girls play with their friends.”
“For the whole three months, do you think?”
“We’ll have to take it a day at a time.”
“It’s going to be so hard on them. Especially Kate.”
“It’s better than the alternative.”
She looked at him over the rim of her cup and nodded. traffic was fairly light until he neared the airport.
Then the highway jittered with cars, brake lights flashing irritably, no doubt filled with students trying desperately to get home. An airplane thundered across the sky, its lights twinkling red and white in the darkness. Peter broke free of the backup and headed for the side streets. Here, the neighborhoods were still half- asleep, just a few cars working their way down the road. People yawned at bus stops and slumped against walls, waiting for rides.
Up ahead, Tower West rose against the lavender sky, dark except for the bright band of light that glowed through the glass of the first- floor lobby windows. Cars packed the lot and overflowed onto the grassy spaces between the buildings. A uniformed man was just coming out of the building. The guard from last night. Peter recognized the weary set of his shoulders. He slowed and rolled down his window.
“We’re full up,” the man said in response to Peter’s question.
“We had to turn away a lot of kids. They just kept coming.” He shook his head, his gaze distant. “You plan for the worst. And then when the worst happens, you find out just how useless your planning was.”
Ten blocks away, a brick apartment building held down the corner, squat and square. The lobby doors stood open. The building manager was a stickler for keeping them locked. Peter stepped inside and listened. A television muttered in the apartment to his left.
Bikes leaned against the wall. Normal. He shrugged and closed the door behind him. Taking the stairs to the second floor, he unlocked the far door on the right. Here, too, everything appeared the same. The narrow bed in the corner, its covers pulled taut. The battered table that served as both nightstand and kitchen table, holding a gooseneck lamp, coffeepot, and alarm clock. The folding chair in the opposite corner beside the small bookcase. The framed photographs of the girls, Maddie’s duck painting taped to the wall. He’d left the drapes half- open. Pale sun streamed across the worn carpet. He filled his suitcase and slung some things into a duffel bag. He unplugged the television and DVD player, and drew the curtains shut. He stood and stared around at the small space, his home for more than a year.
Out in the hallway, a man and a woman trooped up the stairs toward him. He recognized them as his next- door neighbors, both college students. Peter had learned to work late on weekend nights to avoid the inevitable parties and to close his ears to their earlymorning lovemaking. They pressed themselves against the wall to let Peter and his bags squeeze past.
“Take care,” the woman said.
First time she’d ever spoken to him. It sounded so final. Peter nodded. “You too.”
She continued up the stairs, the man’s arm around her shoulders. The streets had perked up during his brief absence. The coffee shop on the corner was doing a brisk business. People thronged the patio and overflowed onto the sidewalk, chatting as they waited for their morning brew. People swooped past on bikes. Others walked hand in hand down the sidewalks. Downtown was beginning to have a carnival air about it, everyone hanging out, enjoying the unexpected day off from school and work.
Peter shook his head and loaded his bags into the back of the pickup.
He drove by playgrounds that an hour before had been empty. Kids ran everywhere, calling out to one another. Their parents stood in idle clusters, rocking strollers and no doubt negotiating how to manage this day and all the suddenly school- free days to follow. Movie theaters would be swamped. So would the mall, fastfood restaurants, the library, and rec center, anyplace that welcomed kids. A mistake.
This wasn’t the time for celebration. These people shouldn’t be standing out here, laughing, gossiping. He considered stopping, rolling down his window, and telling them to go home. But of course he didn’t. They wouldn’t listen. They’d think he was a madman. “listen to this.” shazia sat on the floor in the corner of the den, laptop balanced on her knees, her hair loose about her shoulders. She was playing with her barrette, snapping and unsnapping it. “RNL is working on a vaccine.”
“Who isn’t?” Peter looked back to his computer screen and typed a few commands. He had to download his lectures for the week and then post the exam. It was all master’s- level work. At that point, students could be expected to follow the honor system. “But it looks like they may have something. They’ve already moved on to Phase Two of clinical trials.”
Peter swiveled in his chair to look at her. “Really?”
She nodded. “A Dr. Liederman’s leading it.”
“You know him?”
“My old doctoral advisor. I haven’t talked to him in months.” Which had been a worry. Over the course of the past year, Liederman had stopped attending conferences and returning phone calls. Peter had thought the old fellow was slowing down, but now it seemed he had simply diverted his energies elsewhere. “I’ve been after him for years to write a memoir about the ’78 influenza outbreak. We came that close to a full- blown pandemic.” He held up his thumb and forefinger pinched together.
She had probably never even heard about it. Few people had. “You should hear him talk about it. That guy could send shivers down your spine.”
But talk was all Liederman would do. How many times had he grumbled, “I can’t write a book, Brooks. That’s your job.” Peter leaned back in his chair. “He gave me his notes a while ago. Told me to take a crack at putting together a book. Maybe you could help me organize the material.”
“I’d like that.”
He saw a movement out of the corner of his eye, and he looked over to see Ann standing in the doorway of the den. “Want to light the grill?”
Shazia set down her laptop. “I’ll help.”
“Stay put.” Peter waved his hand. “Tonight I’m cooking.” Shazia looked at him. “That’ll be nice.”
He knew what she was thinking. What kind of dish could she expect from a guy who ate from vending machines and take-out restaurants?
Peter walked beside Ann down the hall. “I might have found Shazia a place. The school’s going to open up Baldwin Hall. I persuaded them to take her even if she’s not on the official list.”
“It’s too bad she won’t be with her roommate.”
“There’ll be other international students there. She’ll know someone.”
Maddie sprawled on her belly in front of the television set. He had no idea what shows were her favorites these days. He’d never seen this particular one before, something involving preteen girls arguing with a man in a hotel uniform. He stopped beside the couch where Kate sat, laptop propped before her. His old computer, outdated but powerful enough for her to play around on. “Who are you talking to?”
She answered without looking up. “Michele. Claire. John. Andrea. Scooter.”
He looked over at Ann. “John? Scooter?” These weren’t names he’d heard before. What kind of name was Scooter? He couldn’t even tell what gender it belonged to.
“John is Michele’s boyfriend.” Ann handed him a platter of hamburger patties. “And Scooter’s a boy in one of Kate’s classes.”
Peter looked down at Kate. Pink blossomed across her cheekbones as she stared at her computer screen. He glanced back at Ann. She was frowning slightly. Then she shook her head. Don’t say anything, she was telegraphing, and he nodded.
So soon. He slid open the screen door and stepped out onto the patio. Too soon. Kate had just turned thirteen. He looked back through the glass at his daughter cross- legged on the sofa, coltish, long brown hair falling forward. She tapped gracefully at the keyboard, her hands all smooth motion, sitting back and laughing. The sight of it made his heart twist.
He turned the dial and was glad to see the answering flame. He hadn’t thought to check the propane level. He shoveled the burgers onto the grill and set down the empty platter.
It was a crisp evening, cold enough to cloud his breath into soft puffs. Streetlights burned up and down the dark sidewalks. He’d missed the sunset.
A dark SUV glided past. The driver lifted his hand in greeting. It was that doctor who lived beside the Guarnieris, what was his name? Singh. That was it. He’d moved into the neighborhood a few months before Peter moved out. They used to nod politely at each other as they crisscrossed their lawns with mowers. The vehicle slowed in front of the driveway and Peter saw a figure step in front of the headlights, followed by a smaller, shaggier shape.
Walter Finn and his dog. The animal was genial enough, but you couldn’t say the same about the man. Finn was forever circulating petitions against one thing or another: too many weeds in a neighbor’s yard, bikes left scattered across sidewalks, snow going unshoveled, all the petty grievances that sprang up in a suburban community, which most people ignored but onto which Finn fastened greedy claws.
Peter stabbed at the burgers and flipped them over.
The dog tugged at his leash, wanting to come over and investigate the meat he was cooking. Finn lifted his head and spotted Peter standing conspicuously against the bright light shining from the kitchen behind him. Peter braced himself for another round of what’s- this- neighborhood- coming- to, but Finn jerked the leash instead and tugged the dog away.
“Heel, Barney,” he ordered, and the dog shambled over to check out who’d been visiting the tree on the far corner.
Peter had been afforded a reprieve. Finn must have figured out he wasn’t the go- to guy of the house any longer. Turning back to the grill, he saw Smith standing at his own grill just across the yard. “Dude,” Smith said. “Good to see you.”
“Been a while.”
“Crazy times, huh? Libby sent me out for water today, but all I could find was that fizzy designer stuff.”
“I got lucky at a gas station on Franz. A delivery truck was just unloading when I pulled up. We’ve got extra you can have.”
“I’ll take you up on that. Libby’s been a wreck about it.”
They talked back and forth across their patios. Would the NFL adjust to a few missed games? How much farther would the Dow Jones skid before recovering? Was there any end in sight to the price of gas? Libby came out, the baby in her arms, and handed Smith a platter.
“Hey,” Peter said.
“Hello,” she said coolly.
Well, at least she wasn’t pretending he was invisible. This was progress. Peter pushed his luck. “Jacob’s gotten big.” Last time he’d seen the baby, he’d been cradled easily in one arm. Now the kid straddled Libby’s hip, reaching forward with one plump hand for the piece of bun Smith held out.
Smith said, “Gonna grow up to be a linebacker, just like his old man.”
The coals glowed softly. The smell of cooked meat rose. Peter pressed the spatula beneath the hamburgers and lifted them onto a plate. Picking up the platter, he dialed off the heat.
“Hey,” Smith said. “I got an idea. Why don’t you guys come over?”
An old tradition, combining their cookouts onto one patio or dining room.
“Smith,” Libby said.
“Jeez, Libby. Come on. If Ann’s cool with it—”
“Actually,” Peter said, “Libby’s right. We should probably be keeping our distance.”
“Christ.” Smith’s voice came to him out of the darkness. “Right. I guess I saw something about that on the news. You really think it’ll do any good?”
“It’s all we can do.”
The clatter of a grill lid lowered into place. “Well, good to see you, Peter.”
Peter looked around at all the houses, large, dark squares rising out of the ground, windows glowing bright, islands separated by lawns and closed doors. The empty patios, the tables with the chairs stacked and the umbrellas furled. No one else was out enjoying the spate of clear weather.
He looked back at his own house. Through the glass he saw into the kitchen—Ann reaching down a stack of plates from the cabinet, Maddie collecting her drawing materials, Kate pouring a glass of milk. It all appeared normal, but it wasn’t. Everything had changed.
A Message from the Author
My parents were restless. By the time I was ten years old, we'd traveled around the world no fewer than five times. No surprise then that I grew up with wanderlust of my own. I married a man who shared my need to explore new towns and was as willing as I was to leave old towns behind. We made and left six homes before we started our own family.
We moved to Maryland while our children were young and stayed for nine years. It was the longest I'd lived anywhere. We bought a home in a family-centric neighborhood with community pools and bike paths. Where one winter, a blizzard shut down the city for five days and I trudged down the middle of the street to the grocery store. I saw five neighbors on the way there, and on my return, recognized a friend driving a snowplow, and convinced him to dig my street out. The day my five year-old disappeared from the front yard, I banged on my neighbor's door and she ran to watch my two year-old while I searched for my son. And when another neighbor's house caught on fire while he was at work, I called him on his cell phone, and met his child at the bus stop. Nine years of carpooling, making meals for sick friends, pitching in when someone was in a terrible accident, or going through a divorce.
But my husband and I became restless again, and when he got a job offer in Columbus, Ohio, a city where we didn't know a soul, we jumped. We figured it would be a good life lesson for our children to learn how to land on their feet in a new place. We found another family-centric neighborhood with community pools and walking paths, adopted two dogs and settled in.
Our kids were older then, and as a writer working from home, I had fewer opportunities to meet people. My husband worked long hours. My kids got busy leading their lives. And the news was filled with dire predictions about bird flu and how mankind was overdue for another pandemic. I began to worry. What if the worst came to pass and a deadly pandemic developed? Experts predicted a complete collapse of all the systems we relied on to protect us. Hospitals would be overrun. There would be food, water, and gas shortages. People would have to turn to one another to survive. But I didn't have people. I had just me and my husband, and three children who needed us. It felt tragically inadequate.
It was this realization that propelled me to write The Things that Keep Us Here which, at heart, is about a mother alone, trying to keep her family safe. It's about the person she becomes during the process and -- in the end -- is more about the dangers lurking within each of us than the dangers raging outside. --Carla Buckley
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Peter and Ann Brooks are married but separated when H5N1 Avian Flu hits the global human race. The virus travels and mutates so quickly that is kills 1 out of every 2 people it touches and causes communities all over the world to take drastic matters in order to survive. When their own sleepy town goes into quarantine, their two girls, Kate and Maddie, have a hard time dealing with the isolation and many deaths around them. This is a gripping story- very sad, and all too close to home, thanks to the recent H1N1 news. The story quickly builds to the pace of a feverish thriller and keeps you on edge until the very end. The Things That Keep Us Here deals with a distinctly scary issue that makes you think about your own family and how you would react if someday this shocking situation was a reality. Buckley will make you believe in the triumph of the human spirit through the worst of times.
A startling look at what our future could bring. An in depth look at getting back to the basics and caring less about material things and more about relationships, caring, and sharing. A must read for everyone. Power and wealth no longer mean anything. Hard work and teamwork are key.
Peter and Ann Brooks separate after he informs her he does not love her. A year later single mom Ann works and raises their two daughters. She learns that the virulent form of H5N1 virus has reached phase five, leading to the closing of all schools by the feds. Accompanied by her neighbor Ann goes to the store fearing quarantine so she stocks up on necessities. When Ann returns home, she finds her estranged husband and his co-worker Shazia there. Ann invites them in to stay for now but in separate beds. The Feds declare the anticipated quarantine in which everyone is to remain indoors. Over time as the pandemic spreads, the people inside the Brooks' home become claustrophobic; food supplies dwindle as she bought for herself and two youngsters and not two additional adults; electricity goes out during a storm; and firewood is low. Ann's best friend is dying from the virus so leaves her son in front of Ann's house. She fears bringing the child inside as the disease is probably incubating inside him, but Peter overrules her. Peter also takes care of a stray dog whose owner died, but Ann resents his using their dwindling food he gives to the child and canine. Everyone remains in danger unless a vaccine is manufactured as half the population is dead, others are dying, and sustenance supplies are becoming scarce. The Brooks family trials, tribulations and triumphs serve as a microcosm of what is faced by other people throughout the world. Some become heroic helping the needy; others try to protect their immediate loved ones; and finally those exist who commit legal and moral crimes. Ann owns this apocalyptic thriller as she feels strongly that her kids come before others in an imploding world gone mad; the opposite of Peter. In her debut, Carla Buckley provides a thought-provoking thriller that asks her readers who would they become if civilization somewhat vanished. Harriet Klausner
The Things That Keep Us Here by Carla Buckley "The Things That Keep Us Here" is a phenomenal debut thriller about what happens to one family when a virulent bird flu pandemic hits the USA. And it has the potential to kill about 50 our of every one hundred that it infects. And then that potential turns to reality. This is the story of one broken family coming to grips of the reality that is America during an unseen and unprepared for emergency. I've read so far this year, about 250 books.this is the one that I will remember for years to come. I've just finished it and I want to grab it up and start rereading it . It was an utterly amazing book especially for a debut. The characters are so well written that I came to think of them as friends of mine. The plot was very well thought out, fast paced, chilling, thrilling and yet tender. This book preys on our deepest emotions and fears, it also makes us ask the really hard moral and ethical questions of ourselves. It makes us wonder if we could cope just half as well as the Brooks family does. If we would come out of something like this with our sanity even half as intact as they did. I look forward to Carla Buckley's next novel.
Once I started, I could not stop reading. It felt like i knew these characters
I loved it!
There are a lot of books out right now that deal with the end of the world, or a pandemic of some sort. This one deals with H5N1 and from its name alone, you can imagine the similarities to H1N1. As I was reading, I couldn't help but think about the H1N1 scare here, and how it could have been much, much worse. In this novel, things take a turn for the worse and Ann is forced to make some tough decisions. As a mother, I could easily relate to Ann. The decisions she made were not made easily. They were made out of fear, and an intense desire to keep her family safe. I felt that the author did a good job of making Ann's situation desperate enough for the reader to understand her decisions. There is a lot that didn't work for me though. This is a story of survival yet when opportunities present themselves, Ann and her husband Peter, don't always take advantage of them. If there is any chance of your kids starving, you are going to do what you have to do to ensure that they don't. There are moments when they do take advantage of a situation, but not always and the inconsistency bothered me. As I was reading, I found myself asking about water or food or weapons, etc. To me, these things are basic necessities when dealing with a pandemic of this magnitude. To me, a couple of the characters really didn't have much of a purpose except to cause conflict between the main characters. One example of this is a young woman named Shazia. As I reader, I never really got to know her and I wondered what her purpose was besides the obvious, which I won't go into as it would give some of the story away. Her character, along with her back story seemed a bit choppy to me and could have been a bit more developed. Overall, the situations that I expected to be the most difficult ended up being almost too easy. Too pat. Water becomes an issue and then all of a sudden there's a stash of water at your convenience. Not very believable. A trip to the hospital, in the middle of a pandemic. and she gets in and out in under an hour. Not likely. I received this ARC several months ago so I don't know how the final version turned out, but the version that I received was a bit disjointed and could have used a bit more editing. There were some overused passages that could have been weeded out and perhaps a heavier hand could have been used as far as keeping things consistent. Without these distractions, I think I would have enjoyed the book quite a bit more. I recently read In a Perfect World, which also deals with a pandemic, but it was much more moving for me than The Things That Keep Us Here. However, I would definitely read something from this author author again as this was Buckley's debut novel and parts of it did show some promise.
It was amazing with all the twist and turns...im only in 6th grade and i loved it!!
Had a hard time putting this book down. Really made me think what if??? Going to go stock up on canned foods, baby wipes, firewood and a gun.
I love reading books. I was at school, and I saw that my friend was reading this book. So I saw the author, and she is my friend's mom. I knew I had to read it. So, I got it from my library and I read it. I could not put it down. I showed it to my mom, and she read it. Now my sister is going to read it. Carla Buckley wrote an amazing book.
This book was great! I wasn't able to stop reading it! From page 1, this book draws you in. This book focuses on a family trying to survive a flu pandemic. The trials and tribulations that the family goes through are real, and the panic and pain are written beautifully. I encourage everyone to read this book!
In The Things That Keep Us Here, we meet a family that is facing an extraordinary situation, a world -wide flu infection that has shut down everything and isolating people in their homes. Slowly the community support slips away, schools close, followed by stores, banks, and even law and government seems to have vanished. Alone and trapped in their own home, Ann welcomes the addition of her estranged husband and his supposed girlfriend to help her and her two young daughters face this crisis.I found this an all too believable story, and was glued to the pages as this family struggled to survive on their own. Issues of food, heating and communication loom large, and eventually even the decision of whether to open the door to a neighbour becomes a life or death choice.Well written, tense and engrossing, my only fault with this book was in the ending. It felt like this first-time author didn¿t really know where to go, so the ending seemed abrupt, and incomplete. A fascinating story nevertheless, and one I am sure I will remember for some time to come.
what happens when a true flu pandemic hits? How would you react. Slow and disturbing at first with a great ending. And a little suprise
This is a book about one families survival during a flu pandemic. Lots of hard choices in this book.
The Things That Keep Us Here by Carla Buckley¿The Things That Keep Us Here¿ is a phenomenal debut thriller about what happens to one family when a virulent bird flu pandemic hits the USA. And it has the potential to kill about 50 our of every one hundred that it infects. And then that potential turns to reality.This is the story of one broken family coming to grips of the reality that is America during an unseen and unprepared for emergency.I¿ve read so far this year, about 250 books¿this is the one that I will remember for years to come. I¿ve just finished it and I want to grab it up and start rereading it . It was an utterly amazing book especially for a debut. The characters are so well written that I came to think of them as friends of mine. The plot was very well thought out, fast paced, chilling, thrilling and yet tender. This book preys on our deepest emotions and fears, it also makes us ask the really hard moral and ethical questions of ourselves. It makes us wonder if we could cope just half as well as the Brooks family does. If we would come out of something like this with our sanity even half as intact as they did.I look forward to Carla Buckley¿s next novel.
The Short of It:A gripping plot, likable characters, yet this one falls a bit short of its mark.The Rest of It:There are a lot of books out right now that deal with the end of the world, or a pandemic of some sort. This one deals with H5N1 and from its name alone, you can imagine the similarities to H1N1. As I was reading, I couldn¿t help but think about the H1N1 scare here, and how it could have been much, much worse. In this novel, things take a turn for the worse and Ann is forced to make some tough decisions. As a mother, I could easily relate to Ann. The decisions she made were not made easily. They were made out of fear, and an intense desire to keep her family safe. I felt that the author did a good job of making Ann¿s situation desperate enough for the reader to understand her decisions.There is a lot that didn¿t work for me though. This is a story of survival yet when opportunities present themselves, Ann and her husband Peter, don¿t always take advantage of them. If there is any chance of your kids starving, you are going to do what you have to do to ensure that they don¿t. There are moments when they do take advantage of a situation, but not always and the inconsistency bothered me. As I was reading, I found myself asking about water or food or weapons, etc. To me, these things are basic necessities when dealing with a pandemic of this magnitude.To me, a couple of the characters really didn¿t have much of a purpose except to cause conflict between the main characters. One example of this is a young woman named Shazia. As I reader, I never really got to know her and I wondered what her purpose was besides the obvious, which I won¿t go into as it would give some of the story away. Her character, along with her back story seemed a bit choppy to me and could have been a bit more developed.Overall, the situations that I expected to be the most difficult ended up being almost too easy. Too pat. Water becomes an issue and then all of a sudden there¿s a stash of water at your convenience. Not very believable. A trip to the hospital, in the middle of a pandemic¿ and she gets in and out in under an hour. Not likely.I received this ARC several months ago so I don¿t know how the final version turned out, but the version that I received was a bit disjointed and could have used a bit more editing. There were some overused passages that could have been weeded out and perhaps a heavier hand could have been used as far as keeping things consistent. Without these distractions, I think I would have enjoyed the book quite a bit more.I recently read In a Perfect World, which also deals with a pandemic, but it was much more moving for me than The Things That Keep Us Here. However, I would definitely read something from this author author again as this was Buckley¿s debut novel and parts of it did show some promise.
**Spoilers**There are two books that are my "gold standard" for post-apocolyptic killer virus literature -- Stephen King's The Stand and Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake. Alas, this one didn't register for comparison for two reasons. First, the author tried to cram every other possible tragedy on top of the flu -- child's death, bad marriage, parental issues, cancer, allergies...the list goes on, that I couldn't engage on where I needed to focus. There was already a major interesting storyline -- I wanted to scream "don't try so hard" at the author whenever another thread was added. Second, the main character, Ann, was quite simply, annoying. The fact that she thought her husband was cheating with his lab assistant (I think it was obvious that was not the case) and knocked her up, put her straight into blithering female category (she wanted to "talk" to her husband about everything else, this seems like a good topic). Moreover, whether dealing with her husband, children, or best friend she seemed incredibly selfish. That being said, while the premise was interesting, it all happened too fast to be realistic (note: the US would be looking more toward federal agencies than WHO in taking directives and actions) and it was pure cliche -- looting, fear of contagion, price gauging, etc . And, just out of curiosity, did none of the characters have a cell phone charger? Further, instead of going down every possible tangent, it might have been more effective to have some serious character development -- Shazia, Peter, and Libby were all interesting characters...a little more there, and a lot less of Ann's whining would have made for a great read. So, while it is a great premise and an interesting first work by Buckley, I'll hold to my initial suggestions in the genre because they capture the possibilities so perfectly.
With interesting characters and a very original plot, this book was a very enjoyable read, and very well written as well. The central characters, Ann and Peter Brooks, are caught up in a swelling flu pandemic and make some emotionally hard choices in an increasingly tense situation. Readers will find it hard to put this book down. The book's portrayal of a society that steadily deteriorates as essential services are lost one by one is chilling in its believability. The marital relationship of the central characters is emotionally real. I highly recommend this book.
The Things That Keep Us Here is an exceptionally painful book at times. Not because it's awful but because awful things happen. There's just enough room left between the lines to imagine what would happen "if." If the pandemic we've been panicking about for the last year really did happen (although in this case it's H5N1) and if it was so much worse than we ever expected. If you're looking for one of those epidemic books where you can't go three words without hitting a very long, very garbled scientific explanation, this is not the book for you. There's enough science to keep things rolling at the beginning of the book, but for the most part Things expects that you already know that a pandemic is the worst nightmare you've never given quite enough thought to before.Instead, the book works because it focuses on how one family's world implodes during the aftermath of the avian flu. Simple things like grocery shopping or stopping to talk to a neighbor become far more dangerous than one would imagine and therein lies the hook. You're forced to stop and wonder what you would do in each circumstance. Would you continue to go to work at a job that would constantly expose you to the deadliest disease in decades? Would you pay nine dollars for a can of tuna or would you be the person who feels justified in price gouging to such an extreme? Would you let an infected friend in when they came begging for help or would you lock the door?There are a couple of issues I have a bit of a hard time with in Things. When trying to explain this awesome (but horrible for my ability to sleep and then go to work at a job where people seem to delight in sneezing right in your face) book, I realized the shopping trip that made me so angry I was shaking (on behalf of the characters) happened... Day One. And I'm not really sure that people would degenerate quite that quickly on the first day of an announced pandemic. Day two, sure. But day one seems a bit premature, particularly when the general population hits the mall on days two and three. The scene is a good one but I fear it happens a little too early.Also, when looking back on the book, there seems to be an overabundance of back story drama. On the one hand, it doesn't seem to be quite so much while actually reading the story. On the other, after it's all said and done, I can't help but think... that's an awful lot of crap thrown at them before the book even started. Was it just to push Ann and Peter's marriage to the breaking point? The way it comes across in the book, they seem to have just never really recovered from losing their son, William. Do they really need Alzheimer's, a probable suicide, and cancer all thrown in the mix as well? This isn't to say it's not realistic but looking back it does seem a bit like overkill.Even with these small flaws that may apply only to me, I couldn't put the book down. I originally planned on reading maybe a chapter or two every morning after work but that first day I managed to read halfway through before I even realized what I was doing. The story haunts even as it races along.
The Things That Keep Us Here blew me away! It's a fantastic read, a page-turner of the highest order. The subject matter of the flu pandemic so timely that it's frightening, Ms. Buckley handled the explosive topic with amazing grace and style. Her characters live and breathe, they are so believable. The only time I put this book down after opening it was to calm myself down when it hit so close to our current reality of the H1N1 pandemic that it made my heart skip a few beats. Amazing book....I've already called my favorite local bookstore to make sure they order plenty of copies. I would be surprised if this novel doesn't end up as a major film within a year or two.
What would happen to each of us if we only had our immediate family to depend on? After the H5N1 pandemic breaks out killing 50 out 100 people that¿s exactly what happens. A true dichotomy develops between the pre-pandemic world where a structured civilization existed to the pandemic world where chaos reigns and brings out the worst in each of us. I could not put this book down. It was face paced and thought provoking. It might be that the timing of this book and the H1N1 virus out break grabbed my attention, but I think it was more the main character Ann who intrigued me. It made me question, what lengths would I go to protect my family and how quickly would I resort to wild west tactics when the technologically based world I come to depend on ceased to exist. I eagerly await Carla Buckley¿s next novel as ¿Things That Keep us Here¿ is truly a great read and one that I will recommend to all my friends.
This is an absolutely haunting, beautiful and terrifying story, and a wonderful debut book from an author with exceptional promise. I read this book over 3 weeks ago, and am still thinking about it. The Things That Keep Us Here is the story of an average family, and a world struck by a pandemic of bird flu. This virulent flu, H1N5, spreads rapidly throughout the world, killing half or more of the people it infects. Even without the eerie timeliness of the topic, this book would still haunt me. Written in detail that makes the family and their neighbors all seem real and average, it strikes a chord with the reader, making it seem all the more plausible. I was drawn in from word one. The characters were finely drawn, and their personalities, warts and all, presented to the reader with no apology and no political correctness concerns. They are believable, and even the less savory characters and aspects of personality ring true, and do not make the characters any less believable or likeable. I found myself wondering over and over, would I be prepared? How would I handle a similar situation? Hard questions, some painful and thought-provoking answers when I considered my personal probable response to such a catastrophe. Many of the situations raised in the book are great for provoking spirited discussion, I think this would make an excellent selection for a book club. I am eagerly awaiting Carla Buckley's next book, and have already passed this on to my sister.....and have a dear friend waiting to read it also. I will definitely be posting info about this book online, and hope the author receives the attention she so richly deserves for this work.
This one found it's way on my front door stoop just a few days before the nor'easter that recently hit the east coast. Well timed because if it weren't for three days without electricity and an unsettling amount of time camped in a coffee shop like a refugee, it would likely have been weeks before I would have attacked this book. I've thought it through and attacked is the correct verb. For it was done and victoriously shelved in two sittings.The story read well -- a real don't-want-to-put-it-down type of book. But what was really interesting was the superbly timed subject matter. It was, personally, regionally and nationally, quite relevant.A quick scan of the back of the book told me that a virus was spreading through the nation and what would a mother do to protect her family. Not something I would normally pick up. Too sensationalist sounding, right? Well, yes, it was a page turner but it was oddly not sensational. Not sensational since much like the book, we are facing a flu pandemic. And much like the book, I was struggling with being cooped up in a home without power. Annnd... well, that's about where the parallels ended. But it was enough to hook me.The story is a very easy read and unfolds smoothly. I found myself wanting to continue reading - to find out more. Never board, which I often am, even with a good book. Overall, I really enjoyed it. And now that the power is on, by bones warm and belly filled, I'll have to contemplate the deeper issues the book addressed. Because, to be honest, it left a lot to think about. Hmmm.... I suppose that would make this an excellent book club type of book.