Past Squares 7: A Look Back at This Kickass Reading Year (2021)

This is also today’s post for Life of B’s Past Squares!

Catherine: The End of Men

There’s a vaccine. It’s finally happened. It’s taken nearly two years but for a long time it seemed like this day would never come. I thought I would feel ecstatic but I’m furious. I’m incandescent with rage. I actually threw a plate this morning. Why now? Why were they able to discover it now? Why not before? The statement from the woman who discovered it, Dr. Lisa Michael, makes it sound like it was a breeze, like she was noodling around for a bit in the lab and then it just sort of appeared.

The End of Men, p. 246

Halfway, The End of Men

This is a really, really interesting book. It’s a first novel, too. WOW.

As the Plague has killed off most men, the US Army is circulating calls for volunteers.

Faith, whose husband (deceased) was a soldier, is one of the first to sign up.

A Plague That Kills Only Men

Self admits, the plot did seem a little far-fetched when she first heard it, but Christina Sweeney-Baird explains why about halfway through, and it is not completely out of left field.

Lucy, who’d only been a midwife for fifteen months when the Plague hit: “Of the two-hundred eighty-four boys I’ve helped to deliver in the last six months, twenty-nine have survived.”

Readers attend a live birth on p. 209, and everyone in the delivery room (including this reader) is painfully holding her breath until the determination of sex is made.

Quote of the Day: The End of Men, p. 155

For a while, self was starting to get lost in the welter of points of view, but now that the Catherine point of view has returned (at least twice) and seems “stable” (i.e., Self can rely on its returning, on a regular basis, till the end of the book), she is good.

This could be the end of the human race entirely. I know that around 10 percent of men seem to be immune, but that’s not enough for humans to maintain a population. Without a cure, 10 percent of the world’s men can conceive 10 percent of the number of babies they previously did. Half of those babies will be girls. Only 10 percent of the 5 percent will be immune. The numbers don’t add up. This may be the end of all of us.

The End of Men, p. 155

New Point of View: Elizabeth

Elizabeth is a CDC research scientist flown in from the US to meet with her counterparts in London. She wonders if she’ll be able to return to the U.S., seeing how chaotic things are becoming in Europe.

As she’s typing up her initial report to her superiors at the CDC, it hits her.

I’m trying to convey how unbelievably bad this is going to get and as I’m typing, I catch my breath.

My dad. My dad is in Jackson. It’s not close to Europe, sure, but this virus is going to make its way to the US soon if it hasn’t already. There have already been a few reports of the occasional case and surely it’ll mushroom in the next few days.

The End of Men, p. 56

Feels like Christina Sweeney-Baird correctly predicted EVERYTHING about the way this would go.

The Virus, London

Catherine’s husband and son are still alive, as of p. 46.

  • I stopped taking Theodore to nursery weeks ago. The idea of it made me shiver; putting him in a big room with thirty other children and adults who could have been anywhere, touched anything, be carrying it but not know. Anyone could have it.The End of Men, p. 46

The pandemic survival rate is 3.4%. Catherine and her husband “spend as much time as possible together . . . We sleep entwined like otters.”

“They tend to plan it better”

Self is absolutely enthralled by this book. Especially by the Amanda point of view.

In the course of my career I’ve seen over a hundred girls, boys, men, women who’ve killed themselves in minutes, brought to the hospital still warm by parents and spouses who never imagined they would kill themselves. The ones who everyone was worried about go straight to the morgue. They tend to plan it better. My sons are alive because I have somehow kept this awful disease out of this house and away from them. But they are starving for my care and affection and I cannot give it to them. I don’t hug them. I don’t cook their food. I don’t go near them if I can possibly help it. I cannot be too careful when their lives are at stake.

The End of Men, p. 38

Except, now self has gotten vested in Amanda’s fate. And that is typically bad news for the character (or her husband. Or her sons). She was so vested in Sawyer’s fate in Record of a Spaceborn Few. And she was vested in Buddy Lee in the last book she read. It’s like she has a homing instinct for tragic characters. And those are the ones she lets into her imagination. Maybe she belongs in Scandinavia, in those chilly scenes of winter.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Whistleblower Amanda

No one is listening to me. I’m beginning to think I’m going mad.

The End of Men, p. 36

The End of Men, p. 9

Gee whiz, I have done it again. I have picked a novel to read that has everything to do with the zeitgeist (and I added it to the reading list way before Texas SB8, is that women’s intuition or what?).

On p. 9, Catherine and her very nice husband, Anthony, who already have one child, a boy named Theodore, discuss having another. The man wants it more than the woman. Here is Catherine expressing her ambivalence:

I go through phases. Sometimes I feel determined and ready. I can do this. Send me the needles, shoot me up, strap me down. I will do anything for a baby. Other weeks, the idea of all of those people and objects and wires and things being inside me makes me want to curl myself in a protective hunch. No, my body says. This is not right. Anthony’s more prone to baby-induced broodiness than I am. A friend’s snuffly newborn or his godchild doing something adorable will inevitably lead to an earnest declaration that we should just do it, let’s do it, what have we got to lose? Like tonight.

What do we have to lose? Everything, Anthony. I want to cry each time. Occasionally I’ll convince myself I can do this whole IVF thing but I can’t do it flippantly. For a man so keen on planning, he can be remarkably gung ho about the impact of IVF and babies or, worse, IVF and no babies, on our lives. I need an acknowledgment of the potential worst case scenario. I need him to understand how hard it’s going to be for me.

This husband will prove to be very important later, because men are dying off at an astonishing rate. In fact, this poor woman might be having to share: it’s like The Handmaid’s Tale, only opposite.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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