The High House – Jessie Greengrass

The High House starts slowly but stick with it. Greengrass soon builds her story and pulls a variety of threads together in this lovely and sad and believable portrayal of a time when it is dramatically foreseeable that human habitation of earth will end due to climate change. Francesca is Caro’s stepmother. She is a world renowned expert on climate change, the one called to comment on national tv and at global conferences. Francesca certainly started this work at a time when significant lifestyle and manufacturing changes would have made a difference, but by the time this story begins, it is too late. People still shop and work, go to college and send money to places where natural disasters take their toll. Refugees from destroyed areas is still just visible on the news and does not affect all lives. So, many continue to behave as if their lives will not change. It is a problem for other people and places. Except for Francesca and her husband. They have added Paul to their family, Caro’s half brother. Caro adores him and often takes care of him. When Caro is 18, she quits school and accepts more responsibility for Paul’s care. About the same time Francesca and her father tell her she needs to take care of him while they spend more time at High House, a ramshackle old farmhouse with a broken mill wheel and a tide pool with a broken sluice gate. It has a weedy old orchard a barn and nothing has been kept up. That is how Caro remembers her beloved High House, near a seaside/riverside village in England. Then one day, Caro’s father calls and urgently tells her to take Paul and to make their way to High House. There is still bus service. When they arrive, a village girl, Sally and her grandfather, Grandy greet them. And, the dystopian part of the novel with more disasters in Europe starts — with a slow but sure detachment from the world as Internet disappears, the tourists stop coming to the village, and Caro’s and Pauly’s world shrinks and shrinks. This is a narrative that rings true, the characters developed and well-drawn, the story sad, but also heartwarming.

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