If I hadn't had to eat, sleep, and grade essays, this book would have been finished in one day. Due to those daily and job-related necessities, it actually took me two days to read this book. In other words, it's a humdinger. It's also one of those books that has burned itself a bit into my memory, not because of any pretty writing, complex characters, or poetic settings, but because of the waaaay too-real possibility of its plot line. You see, I remember the avian flu scare back about ten years ago, walking into New York city's Chinatown, seeing deserted streets and empty restaurants. I remember the following scare of 'pig' flu in 2009, as my daughter got on a plane headed to Hong Kong, with every face covered in a surgical mask. I also remember H1N1 back in the fall of 2009, as it decimated college campuses and schools. I usually ignore the stories, figuring it's the media attempting to scare the public into getting their flu shots. However, after reading The Things That Keep Us Here, I doubt I will ever hear a 'flu' report quite the same way again.
The main character, Ann, is just like many of us busy moms, having put her life and marriage on hold to parent the two children she has left, after losing a son to SIDS, dealing with marital as well as financial problems, a bratty teenager, and a cranky neighbor. Her soon-to-be- ex-husband is a research veterinarian (never knew there was such a job) who comes across a pond filled with thousands of dead birds. Creepy enough, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. As the story unfolds, we watch not just our country, but the world fall apart in the most massive pandemic since the 1918 Spanish Influenza killed over 5% of the world's population. However, it is not just a story of disease, but a story that asks the question over and over again, what would you do if...? Thought-provoking and well-written, it is a story of family, of loss, of hardship, of love, but mostly of choices to be made. It would be an intriguing book club choice that would appeal to a variety of ages as well as both genders. I highly recommend it.