Source- Review copy
Publisher- Simon & Schuster
Publication date- 27th April 2012
Synopsis- When I wake the world is gone. Only fragments remain. And then I remember…
Then: Her life may have taken a couple of wrong turns but thirty-year-old Zoe is trying to make the best of what she has. A part time cleaning job to pay for college, a weekly appointment with her therapist to straighten out the problems in her life. The same problems that any thirty-year-old girl would have. Nothing major. Nothing too life threatening. A few bad dreams. It’s all going to be fine.
Now: There is no other thought but survival. And so begins a treacherous post-apocalyptic trek across a desolate world in search of a life for her unborn baby.Through the remains of what was once civilization, Zoe crosses continents strewn with fellow survivors, knowing the only thing that can keep her sane is normal human decency. But acts of kindness are few and far between in a world where untold horrors exist around every corner, where food and water is in desperately short supply, and the only chance of happiness is half a world away.
Review- WOW. That was my first thought when I finished reading this book and then I just sat and stared at the front cover, exhaling deeply trying to comprehend everything I read.
White Horse is a post-apocalyptic (dystopian) book with an adult protagonist which completely blew me away. I can’t say it was an uplifting book because it was quite depressing. There’s death, grief, loss, (sexual) violence but also hope, resilience and intensely engaging characters- whether I particularly liked them or not.
The book alternates between ‘Then’ and ‘Now’ which makes for an absorbing read as the gaps begin to close and the bigger picture emerges. Zoe is 30 years old and although she may not have had much direction in her life pre-war, she has an abundance of determination post-war as she makes her way from Italy to Greece in search of her unborn baby’s father.
Along the way, she collects a young blind woman named Lisa who in her naivety gets them into trouble quite often. She’s a vulnerable woman who I immediately empathised with, given one of the first scenes in the book is violent, disturbing and sets up a picture of the world and Lisa’s desperate need to find love in a world that is so damaged.
They also inadvertently ‘befriend’ the Swiss- a seriously evil, disturbed man who keeps Zoe on her toes and instilling every survival skill possible to protect her unborn child from his grasps.
The world is quite vividly painted without any info dumping or need to over-describe as the author tells it as it is simply and on an as-needs-basis while everything else is discovered along the way. A war and deadly disease (White Horse) broke out and wiped out most of the population. The remaining are either immune (like Zoe) or their genes have mutated and they are no longer quite the human they once were. It is every man for himself, but Zoe strives to retain her humanity, the one genuine gift she can give her child in a war-torn world.
Zoe’s relationship with her therapist Dr Nick Rose as told in the ‘Then’ snippets of Zoe’s life is very intriguing, emotionally captivating and incites a longing in the reader for the two to be reunited in the ‘Now.’ I would normally be suspicious about a doctor-patient relationship crossing the professional boundaries into the personal but it is made clear from the outset that there is a connection between them that cannot be denied. Zoe is not like most of his mentally unwell patients, she is just a lost woman who comes to session to talk about a random jar that turns up in her dream. Their vulnerability was reciprocated on many levels and it was their connection with each other that drove them to survive. I suppose I never really believed that their relationship was ‘professional’ to begin with so it didn’t irk me when it became more. And to be honest when the world is ending, professional ethics are meaningless when there’s hunger, murder and disease.
I don’t really want to give too much away from the storyline because I think it blew me away because it was completely not what I expected. Despite the desolation of the story, it evoked such an emotional response in me that I couldn’t rate it any less than 5/5. My stomach was tense in anticipation of what happened next, particularly near the end where I just kept hoping that there would be some light for Zoe in this darkness. I longed for Zoe to be reunited with Nick just so I didn’t have to feel so horrible for her anymore! He represented the element of hope in the story.
White Horse will be developed into a trilogy, which I have mixed thoughts about. At first I hoped it was a one-off, just so I could have that feeling of everything being wrapped up and not be disappointed that the next book wouldn’t be as good. But as the day went on I kept thinking about White Horse and I decided I did want more and I wanted to know what happened next and now I can’t wait until the sequel is released- which I suspect won’t be any time soon!
White Horse is an exceptionally crafted story written by a very talented story-teller and I highly recommend it.
Purchase book @
About the author: Alex Adams was born in New Zealand, raised in Greece and Australia, and currently lives in Oregon–which is a whole lot like New Zealand, minus those freaky-looking wetas. Her debut novel, White Horse (Emily Bestler Books/Atria) hits shelves April 17, 2012. Her fingers are crossed that the world won’t end before then.