x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

America Pacifica: a drastically changed landscape

Anna North's engaging debut novel features Darcy, an 18-year-old living on an island slum in an economically polarised America of the near future, makes a journey of discovery after her mother disappears.

America Pacifica
Anna North
America Pacifica Anna North Virago Dh85

The post-apocalyptic landscape of America Pacifica, Anna North's engaging debut novel, feels at once both remarkably familiar and completely alien. The United States of the near future is a "frozen, used-up hulk" from which the fortunate have escaped to spend their days on Pacifica, an "overcrowded, overbuilt and falling apart of the edges" island.

This is, of course, no offshore paradise. Society here follows a strict class system; the rich continue to get richer in their lush dwellings in Lower Manhattanville, while the poor are condemned to live in swampy, cockroach-infested slums.

It is in one of Pacifica's poorest districts that the reader is introduced to Darcy, the book's protagonist. Eighteen years old, this is the only life she has ever known. Her mother moved to the island from mainland Seattle as one of its first settlers when she herself was young. The two have whittled out a life of sorts ever since. The sudden disappearance of Darcy's mother sets the book on a solid path, as our central character makes a journey of discovery over treacherous terrain.