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This book is about a couple, Stan and Charmaine, during an economical and social collapse. We meet them when they are living in their car after Stan loses his job and neither one can find new ones. All the jobs have moved out west, but they don’t have the money to get there. Then they find out about Consilience, a self-sustaining community. No one is unemployed and everyone has a place to live. The only stipulation, have of the year they spend in prison. On alternating months, two different families live in the house.

This is a good thing, until Charmaine falls for the man living in the house when her and Stan are not there, putting Stan’s life in danger.

The concept of this story drew me in from the beginning. It’s not a post-apocalyptic world, but it is following a crisis of some sort, and its a crisis that could very well happen in today’s society. I like the idea of being in jail one month and living in a beautiful home the next. The are no worries about bills or losing your job. Everything is assigned and giving.

This story starts a little slow. They were living in the van longer than I thought they would be, but it didn’t drag. I found her job interesting. I didn’t think they would have bars when there weren’t any other jobs to be had. There were times when I was nervous for them. Margaret Atwood does a great job of setting the novel up. It made it easier to understand the characters. She also did a great job of introducing Consilience and explaining how it worked.

The biggest thing that bothered me at the beginning were their alternates. Phil and Jocelyn leave the house uncleaned, no sheets on the bed, and no towels hanging up, with the yard unkempt. Meanwhile Stan takes excellent care of the yard and Charmaine makes sure to put fresh sheets and towels out. You would think they would take some care of the house then way Stan and Charmaine do.

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 When we spend more time with Charmane, it’s really interesting to see how her character acts in different situations. She’s no longer living in a van with no money. She has a house and a job. She has stuff to do that doesn’t put her life in danger. I love the way we see her as her own person. But I also dislike the way she becomes almost obsessed with meeting Phil. It’s almost as if it’s the most important thing.

Stan on the other hand is a bit boring. He lives off of his imagination at what his alternates are “doing.” He becomes so obsessed he decides to put a tracker in the scooter Charmaine and her alternate share. I was shocked when Jocelyn, the alternate, shows up and informs Stan of what’s going on. Like, holy crap!

Jocelyn scared me. She was creepy and controlling. I was astounded when I found that she was the one threating Stan’s life. I thought it would have been Phil.

Then the whole switch in plot completely threw me off. I did not see it coming at all when Jocelyn informs Stan he will be leaving the compound, and that Charmiane was going to be the one “killing” him to get him outside.

When I finally figured out what was happening, I was completely wrong. Margaret did an amazing job of keeping me hooked to the very end. I thoroughly enjoyed the book.