Z for Zachariah
by Robert C. O’Brian
Source: Public library
Simon & Schuster Pulse
After a nuclear war, sixteen-year-old Ann has survived on her family’s farm, in a valley that has its own weather system. She misses her parents and brothers, who left and never returned. She has a cow for milk and chickens for eggs. The general store in town has supplies of canned goods and men’s clothing for her to use. She also works on her garden. One of the two streams in the valley stayed fresh. One day a man arrives in an anti-radiation suit. He’s John Loomis, a scientist from Cornell University in New York. He created the suit shortly before the war, then went out in search of survivors. Even with his Geiger counter, he bathes in the irradiated stream and gets radiation sickness, so Ann has to nurse him back to health.
John wants the world as it was–except with him in control of civilization. He’s very practical for a post-apocalyptic person. Ann asks if she could take the suit to get books from the town’s library, like Shakespeare and Dickens. He refuses, because textbooks and technical manuals have “more use.” He thinks she’s stupid because she’s young, and forces her to work for him. She has to fight and escape him. It turned into a good thriller once that happened! I liked Ann as a protagonist.
I had difficulty knowing where this was set, even with the long descriptive passages of the valley, hills, and town. I thought since New York was “very far away,” Ann must have lived in the Southeast, like Kentucky or Virginia.
The “About the Author” page at the end of the book said Robert C. O’Brian left notes for this after his death in 1973, so it was finished by his wife and daughter. That only bothered me a little because the tone and writing stayed the same throughout the book.