Cover Image: If Darkness Takes Us

If Darkness Takes Us

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Having recently finished the previously published “If Darkness Takes Us'' by Brenda Marie Smith, I am happy to have had the chance for the e-copy; thank you NetGalley and SFK Press!

I know a post-apocalyptic story is not one with a happy outcome, and “If Darkness Takes Us” had me constantly wondering and worrying how this action packed, emotional tale of survival after an EMP solar pulse catastrophe would end. Grandma Bea, her grand-kids, and South Austin neighbors will stay with me as I keep some of Bea’s “tree hugger wild” wisdom and knowledge tucked away in a tiny part of my own “VERY unprepared” grandma brain.

Was this review helpful?

So this wasn't the book for me. This is more of an adult book where you care more about character development then about any action or plot.

That being said I thought this Fook would be like other post apocalyptic stories that I've read with action and adventures. Instead this book takes place primarily in a struggling neighborhood. I did enjoy the relationships that grew in this story.

Was this review helpful?

This book was an interesting read, and looking back on my read now (I am horribly late with my review) we're in the global pandemic, this book makes even more sense.
The premise had my interest as soon as I read it. I like dystopian novels, and this one sounded really amazing. A grandmother protecting her kids while her husband and all her grandkid's parents are away? Sign me up. The story starts right in the middle of chaos, which is only explained later in the book. I quickly learned that her husband was an asshole through and through, no matter how much she kept protecting him.
This grandmother was just prepared for about everything, and considering what happened, she had done very well in that. The stored food, the safe space no one knew about, I loved it. The choices she had to make for her grandchildren were hard. But so was life during this book. I think she held up quite well considering what she had to put up with. The grandchildren were of various ages, and sometimes difficult to deal with.
The other really well-done thing in this book was the morale. This woman had to choose between feeding herself and the grandkids for a longer period of time, or she could feed the whole streed and run out within days. She could treat others who were ill, but what would happen if one of her own got ill? These things came up and the way she struggled with them was intensely realistic,.Especially since whatever choice she made, someone always disagreed. This is pretty much how the world works these days, and I thought it was well done.
Overall, this book was quite great.

Was this review helpful?

I'm not much of a post-apocalyptic books, but this one? just amazing.! A grandma taking care and saving her grandchildren as the world is ending? Just that kind of read I like as I am a child raised and still living with her grandmother!

Was this review helpful?

Thank you to the publisher and to Netgalley for the advance copy of this book!

HOLY COW! This thriller was everything I needed and more! I think I picked up exactly when I needed it. I loved this book. The atmosphere was everything I wanted it to be. I loved the plot and storyline in the book. I loved the characters in this story. It gave me all the feels I was looking for when I started reading this. I highly recommend this author. I loved the writing. I will be looking for other works in the future from this author.

Was this review helpful?

Content warnings: Death (dog and human, including major characters); gun violence; injuries; immediately post-apocalyptic setting (but not one humans caused); pregnancy complications and miscarriage; stroke/neurological event; mild emotional abuse.

I’m not usually one for a post-apocalyptic setting, and now might really not have been the time to read about the collapse of civilisation, but If Darkness Takes Us really blew me away with its clever and realistic portrayal of one woman trying to cope in a barely-functioning world.

How often do you get to see an older woman centred in science-fiction, especially in survival fiction? Rarely do you even come across an over-40, let alone a 70 year old grandmother just trying to keep her grandchildren alive in a post-apocalyptic world. But Bea, the protagonist of If Darkness Takes Us, is exactly that – a softly-spoken Texan grandma with a secret prepper’s hoard who turns out to be the most capable person in her small town when a solar flare causes an electromagnetic pulse that takes out all electricity and infrastructure. She happened to be babysitting her four grandchildren, ranging in age from six to seventeen, and with her husband and children out of town, she has to make the most of the family she has within her reach.

Bea is a fantastic character. She narrates the story in first person and her voice is so compelling and easy to read. As she sets up the backstory for the day the world broke, you get lulled into her matter-of-fact style, almost as if this is a true memoir and not fiction. It’s an interesting tone for the book to take, and one that had me incredibly emotionally invested. Bea is clearly an intelligent and strong woman who’s devoted to her family, and it’s really nice to see that cleverness and caring nature co-exist so easily. This is what I’m talking about when I say I want variety in the way women’s strength is represented. Physically, she struggles – she has a heart condition and could definitely not be a gun-toting action hero kind of leader – but it’s her inner strength and her smarts that keep her and her grandkids going. I loved that (despite a small amount of unreliability due to the first-person narration), we get a pretty warts-and-all picture of her, as she is forced to confront parts of herself that she would rather deny, and she is definitely complex. Also, she is allowed a romantic subplot, and actually has sex! I can’t get over how sadly unusual it is for an older woman not to be completely desexed in fiction, if she appears at all.

The book gets dark. I’ll say now that if you didn’t read the list of content warnings above, you might want to. Some of it is hard reading, and it made me cry at one point. I know that post-apocalyptic fiction is a touchy subject for a lot of people right now, and this book in particular doesn’t flinch away from the darker side of things. There are no real heroes, just people surviving, and it’s fascinating to see how that looks on different people. Bea’s small town community is more or less trapped in their homes (due to the lack of transport in part, but also massive chemical spills from derailed trains and broken-down power plants. I did appreciate that this book wasn’t at all preachy about humans having destroyed the earth – the apocalyptic event is a random one caused by a huge solar flare, so there is no angst or guilt about whether it could have been avoided (though of course, there is the question of how far humans have come to rely on technology, to their eventual detriment). Anyway, the limited community setting allows for a certain amount of recognisable neighbourhood rivalry and tension, which adds a really interesting dimension to the character relationships as the apocalypse brings out the best and worst in people.

One of the things I loved about this was that the ending is bittersweet, and manages to tie things up in a way that feels somewhat satisfying, but absolutely does not magic anything better. It would have been a disservice to the story’s depth to have things fixed. That’s not to say it isn’t hopeful – it sort of is – but it’s not an easy ending. That’s true of the whole book really. It’s the epitome of hopepunk – how caring and community can be the best way forward in times of disaster, and in the face of utter terror, even if they don’t, and can’t, fix everything. God, this book is just powerful. I think I’m going to be thinking about it for a long time.

With the caveat to take care of yourself if you’re not feeling mentally up to the subject matter, I would say that anyone with an interest in post-apocalyptic or science fiction, or who has ever longed for an older female protagonist, ought to read this. It’s feminist, and distressingly believable, and terrifying, and hopeful, and just brilliant. Five out of five cats.

Was this review helpful?

I felt like this was a brilliant dystopian where you focus on a small neighborhood and the things that could happen in a heartbeat. During this book you follow the main character Bea and her grandchildren after a train wrecks and leaks something into the air. It begins killing people and making the food and water in the area scarce. Bea ends up being a strong main character and takes care of the entire neighborhood. I fell in love with the story from the first page and continued to love it until the end!

Was this review helpful?

Bea Crenshaw is secretly prepared for the end of the world – but when the worst case scenario happens when her grandchildren are visiting with her husband and children out of town, how far will she have to go to protect her family?

t can be argued that apocalyptic fiction is quite a saturated market at the moment, from zombies and plagues to nuclear weapon destruction, there’s a lot of titles on the market that can all be quite similar so it is hard to get one to stand out. If Darkness Takes Us is a really refreshing take on this genre and one I thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish. There is less emphasis on what actually happened or the global impact of the disaster, but instead we are fully invested in Grandmother Bea Crenshaw’s quest to keep her grandchildren safe and help her small American town survive.

Bea is a fantastic main character; she has her secrets, she has some grit and she has her flaws as well. She’s a strong woman let down by the failures of age who is just trying to do the best for the ones she loves. The plot itself isn’t afraid to hit some hard punches and the ending in particular is heart-breaking and has stayed with me.

Overall If Darkness Takes Us is one of my favourite post-apocalyptic thrillers and one that has stayed with me long after finishing it – highly recommended. Thank you to NetGalley & Southern Fried Karma for the chance to read the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Was this review helpful?

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC of this book. I really enjoyed this book. It was a bit slow for me. I'm used to more action- packed dystopian /apocalyptic tales. The main character I got attached to, while the kids just irked me to no end. I finished this in about 3 days because while it was a decent read, I kept putting down to read something more lively.

Was this review helpful?

I really enjoyed reading this book, the premise was great and I thoroughly was hooked from start to finish. This book does not disappoint, the characters were great and unique and I really enjoyed reading this.

Was this review helpful?

I read a lot of post-apocalyptic books and sometimes they can all blend together. While this one does have some aspects that frequently repeat themselves in this genre of book, a lot of it felt fresh and exciting, and with every new page turned I felt my curiosity piqued. This is what I look for in a book -- something that will hold my attention. That's all I need, I'm not a very picky girl. So if you're looking for something that will keep you fully engaged, pick this up!

Was this review helpful?

The Good
-timely and relevant. I’m no science whiz but all those environmental issues we’re hearing about. THEY’RE NOT MYTHS, PEOPLE. This book addresses the nightmares that we’ll all experience if we play ignorant.
-captivating writing.
-too good it made me cry too many times
-there were lighthearted moments that were just too beautiful
-the characters hardly go outside their little community but oh my, so many things happen
-It felt realistic

The Not-So-Good
-those adults who act all-knowing; i.e. why didn’t you this? why didn’t you do that? why did you do this? why did you do that?
Uhm, excuse me. You didn’t even do anything.🙄 You weren’t even here to do anything.


UTTERLY HEARTBREAKING. A book that I’ll remember for a long time.

Was this review helpful?

Title: If Darkness Takes Us
Author: Brenda Marie Smith
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Bea Crenshaw has lived in the Austin suburbs for years, watching the world go to pieces around her. So she starts prepping—doomsday prepping—secretly, letting no one in her family know just how prepared she is. When calamity strikes in the form of a solar pulse, maybe, Bea is ready. But she never imagined how hard the end of the world would be when taking care of her four grandchildren.

Bea knows if they are to survive, they must work together with their neighbors, but that’s easier said than done. Some boys would rather watch the world burn than help the community. Bea just wants her family safe—but will she be able to make that happen, no matter how prepared she thought she was?

A post-apocalyptic novel about a grandmother? That concept was unique enough to catch my attention. I enjoyed the idea and the story enough to finish reading the novel, but the novel did have some issues. The younger grandchildren—actually, all the grandchildren but Keno—seemed to be caricatures of “problem child” kids, not actual people. (Rebellious and defiant teenage girl, bratty little girl, angry pre-teen.) They annoyed me badly enough I didn’t actually care what happened to them. And Bea herself was oblivious to reality and real life—almost willfully so. If it fell outside the neat box she had prepared in her mind, she had no idea how to deal with it, so she went with denial. Not a healthy choice for anyone. I just wasn’t invested in these characters.

Brenda Marie Smith lives in Austin, Texas. If Darkness Takes Us is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Southern Fried Karma via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Was this review helpful?

If darkness takes us
This was about a paranoid grandmother who stockpiled her house in case something happened.
She was almost ready for anything.
And then it happened. And I was so nervous because it felt like the walking dead without zombies and people were going to start getting ugly.
This was a good read for Halloween I hate the human condition. It’s awful how bad we treat each other! I didn’t care for the God bashing and how he is often blamed, but I did admire Bea. She took care of her family and made the tough decisions in her neighborhood. It was just an ok read for me. Happy Halloween everyone! 🎃
This was a NETGALLEY gift and all opinions are my own.

Was this review helpful?

I love a good dystopian/post-apocalyptic read. The premise for this was fantastic - the end of the world as we know it and people trying to survive in the new Dystopian world. A solid premise that was unfortunately poorly executed.
I really wanted to enjoy this, and there were some parts that I did, but I really struggled to connect with the majority of the book. It has an interesting POV, an elderly woman looking after her grandchildren, which is unusual for a dystopian as their main characters are often teenagers.
However, I found the dialogue to be a bit wooden and the progression of the storyline seemed a little farfetched. Firstly, how did nobody notice an elderly lady building a massive bunker and, secondly, how is it that a teenage boy knows more about science then absolutely every other character in the book???
Overall it was all too predictable for my tastes and I just struggled with it and I don't think I'd recommend it to anyone, unfortunately.

Many thanks to the author, publisher, and Netgalley for sending me a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Was this review helpful?

If Darkness Takes Us is an amazing book. A lot of thrilling pieces have blended with suspense and romance here. It is full of emotions. An older woman's hope for future has reflected here. Complicated relationships also pointed here. I am very interested to know the consequences of the characters! It is really a enjoyable post-apocalyptic fiction.

Was this review helpful?

Thank you to Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review this title. What will you do if power ends tomorrow? This is a story of a grandmotherly type who has fortuitously prepared for just about anything. But reality shows her that she could not plan for how neighbors will react. This story delves into family reactions to the crisis and what the neighborhood will evolve into. Quite interesting and somewhat unrealistic but it does keep the readers interest.

Was this review helpful?

Dystopian/post-apocalyptic fiction is a genre that favors the young. Teenagers, and the occasional twenty-somethings, tend to be the stars. Brenda Marie Smith turns that around in If Darkness Takes Us. Bea Crenshaw, the narrator and main character, is a 70-year-old grandmother. For that reason alone, I was fascinated by this novel.

Bea lives near Austin, Texas. She had been expecting an apocalyptic event for decades. She secretly stockpiled food and other supplies, even (especially) hiding it all from her controlling husband, nicknamed Hank the Crank. The event comes when she's babysitting her 4 grandchildren for the weekend. The Crank and the kids' parents are in Dallas for a football game when a train carrying hazardous chemicals derails nearby. Soon after that, something--nobody is certain whether it is nuclear weapons, a nuclear plant leak, solar flares, or something else--cuts off all the electricity, cell phone towers, and internet. Modern cars with computerized equipment no longer work, either. Bea is tasked with ensuring that the three teenagers and one small girl left in her charge survive.

Bea is compelling and relatable. She's not perfect, but she loves her grandchildren and strives to do the right thing. Speaking through Bea, Smith describes the neighborhood's descent, the neighbors, and the grandchildren vividly. Bea quickly realizes that neighbors will also need her help, and that while she thought of a lot, she didn't--couldn't--think of everything. The struggles and occasional joys feel realistic. Smith doesn't say much about the outside world. She doesn't have to. It's obvious that everyone is struggling to survive. Several people and a good dog die.

If Darkness Takes Us is an interesting, valuable, and welcome addition to its genre. I could not recommend it more highly. I also recommend tissue.

Thanks to NetGalley for an ARC of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Was this review helpful?

The perspective from which this story is told was unique. The main character, Bea, had both strengths and weaknesses to work with that were specific to her age and situation. The grand kids were annoying at times, but their behavior was plausible.

Things felt like they moved a little slowly in the beginning, but once the story was set up it moved at a reasonable pace. There were times when I really didn't agree with the main character's choices and way of thinking. However, the story was well-written enough so that I understood her thinking, even though it was different than my own. There is a lot of character development throughout the story, for Bea and her family.

The book held my interest til the end. I don't know what the author's plans might be, but I would be interested in reading stories from the perspectives of others in this same world.

Was this review helpful?

I really enjoyed this rather low key post apocalyptic novel about grandma Bea Crenshaw who finds herself home alone with her 4 grandkids when the whole world comes crashing down. It was well written and the main character, Bea, is a strong and resourceful woman who has been in the shadow of her husband "cranky Hank" for far too long. I found it gave the book an extra dimension that it's written from the pov of an older person, it's not that common and made it interesting, she's in her late sixties, with poor health and taking care of 4 - and occasionally more - kids takes its toll. In my head I saw Margo Martindale as the main character!

I got an e-ARC of #ifdarknesstakesus from the good people at #netgalley and the publisher in return for an honest review

Was this review helpful?