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Restoring Harmony
Joëlle Anthony
Putnam Juvenile, 320 pages

Restoring Harmony
Joëlle Anthony
Joëlle Anthony started out life as a storyteller, then a reader, eventually a writer, and, by her teen years, the stage was calling and she began to read plays. With a BA in theatre, she got some headshots made and called herself an actor. You can see her in such films as Men of Honor and Permanent Record. She lives in British Columbia.

Joëlle Anthony Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Dan Shade

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Sixteen-Year-Old Molly McClure of Canada must save her family in 2041. After severe oil shortages, the government has seized all remaining oil. This and the previous shortages have resulted in extreme poverty worldwide. Many large corporations and small businesses have failed. This life-changing event is referred to as the Collapse. Money still has value, there just isn't very much to go around and has lost much of its value. Most economic transactions are the result of the barter system. Molly lives on an Island off of British Columbia. It is a somewhat isolated farming community that has not suffered as severely from the Collapse. No one is hungry or sick.

However, Molly's mother is experiencing a late pregnancy. She has already born three children, Molly being the youngest. This is enough to put her at risk but her blood pressure is also extremely high. To make matters worse the island doctor was kicked in the head by a mule and died. Molly's grandfather in Oregon is a doctor but they haven't seen him since 2027. They have recently spoken over CyberSpeak because Molly's grandmother had a stroke. However, CyberSpeak is not reliable and they don't know if grandma died or was released from the hospital. It is a conundrum that requires an immediate solution.

The family gets together and decides that Grandma has probably died and someone should go and rescue Grandpa. With the Collapse and so many businesses closed, they are worried he will not be able to care for himself. And Molly is elected to make the trip to Oregon and bring Grandpa back. They need him to care for mother and they need to take care of him because he's old. Molly packs a few things and her fiddle. With a fist full of cash they hope will see her all the way to Oregon, she starts her epic journey. Why Molly is elected is not explained. The oldest of the three children is a boy. I don't mean to be sexist but I'd send my 18- or 19-year-old son on this quest before my tender 16-year-old daughter. Molly seems ill equipped and an easy victim but the book goes on to prove me wrong. There's even romance on the horizon.

This is a sweet book appropriate for the twelve-year-old range with great character development. There is nothing really dark and foreboding about this story. Plenty of potential but, for some reason, Joëlle Anthony keeps the story on the light side. I prefer my post-apocalyptic science fiction as dark as I can get it. Two movies that have pleased me this year have been The Road and The Book of Eli. Now, those are dark. I'm not saying Molly doesn't have a tough time but most of the characters she runs into are basically good at heart. Conditions are certainly ripe for catastrophe but it never gets out of hand. For example, when Molly reaches Oregon where her grandfather lives, the local swap meet or barter town is controlled by the mob, which scares Molly but really never poses much of a threat to her. They mostly supply the rich with the luxuries of life such as beef and imported booze. There are rumors that the mob has killed people but when Molly crosses them, rather than kill her they won't let her leave town and put a tough looking but softhearted guard on her tail. In short, Molly runs into no one she can't handle.

One interesting aspect of the book is that Molly can play a mean fiddle. She takes it with her on her trip because she can't bear to be without it. At first I thought this was a bad idea but Molly uses her fiddle in various ways to calm the savage beast and make money. No matter where she goes, everyone wants to hear her play and they usually contribute a few coins or mouthfuls of food. She calms crowds, wins passage on trains or wagons, and makes a few extra bucks busking in Oregon at the community swap/sell site. Often it's not coins the people throw into her open violin case but a couple of onions or some other vegetable. The veggies are just as valuable as the coins since Molly never seems to know where her next meal is coming from. I've thrown my share of coins in guitar cases over my lifetime but never knew the performance was called "busking" until I read this book.

The events in Joëlle Anthony's book are certainly foreseeable given the trends we see today. Gas prices continue to soar, natural disasters are all too common, the world economy is gloomy and the federal government of the United States has had to spend trillions of dollars to shore up a falling or failing economy (of course the question must be asked -- who will pay back these trillions of dollars and what effect will that have on the future economy?). When I read a book like Restoring Harmony, I can't help but think such a world is just around the corner unless we are very, very careful. If so, may it be as mild as the one Molly experiences.

Copyright © 2010 by Dan Shade

Dan Shade is a retired college professor who loves to read young adult science fiction, fantasy, and horror. But he doesn't draw the line there. He also enjoys writing science fiction and hopes to publish someday. In the meantime, you can find him at lostbooks.org (under construction).


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