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How to Survive a Natural Disaster

1 rating: 4.0
A book by Margaret Hawkins

Hawkins observes the complexities of modern family living from several perspectives (one of which is a three-legged dog) in her uneven latest, at the center of which is Roxanne, the divorced single mother of April and newly adopted mother of Peruvian … see full wiki

Tags: Books
Author: Margaret Hawkins
Publisher: Permanent Press
1 review about How to Survive a Natural Disaster

Fascinating, absorbing, enlightening, unputdownable

  • Sep 20, 2010
I wonder what constitutes a perfect first sentence for a novel. "I didn't speak until I was seven," the first sentence of How to survive a natural disaster by Margaret Hawkins, certainly comes close. And having finished the book in one afternoon--I could hardly put it down--I'd have to say her final sentence comes even closer to perfection, in my humble opinion. (My opinion is biased of course, as you'll determine if you read the novel. But the fact that I was sent a bound galley by publisher, The Permanent Press, is not at all why I'm biased. I'd have enjoyed the read wherever I got it from.)

The characters in this novel are almost walking disasters themselves. But, apart from the dog, they're so human, so very normal, so inherently flawed they reflect life's preoccupations almost perfectly. The story is told through their various eyes, from Roxanne seeking God's guidance in church leaders and coincidence, to Craig, the struggling artist who turns his world into a spoiled palette, to genius April, to equally genius May, to Pheobe who's painted herself into a cave with her retreat from memories... to Mr Cosmo, the observant three-legged dog.

Cosmo wears his wounds where everyone sees, bothering none about their cause. But others' wounds are harder to explore, and humans maybe bite each others' paws rather than chewing their own. Except for Phoebe, who in the end is the one who shows the true meaning of family. Meanwhile, Peruvian orphan Esmerelda, snatched away to foreign soil, is watching them.

The characters' stories are beautifully told, starting with innocent surface truths, till other telling details slide into light. Defensive, angry, yet somehow always forgivable; wounded, broken, yet somehow worthy of healing; they do their best and worst and struggle through life. But there's humor, a gentle touch, and a delightful mix of voices to lighten the tale. There's a compelling need to know, when and how did the child learn to speak, and what is the "age of reason," that draws the reader in. Perhaps the age and the reasons might be different for all of us.
Despite the gun, the disaster's natural; survival is based on forgiveness; and there's reason to hope. How to Survive a Natural Disaster is a fascinating, absorbing and enlightening tale--like I said; I couldn't put it down. It's highly recommended.

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October 15, 2010
I think this is the first time I've seen the word unputdownable! :) Pretty convincing I must say that the book is worth reading. I love how vividly you describe the story and characters without giving anything away.  :-)
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