Not Alone

A Novel

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Pub Date 02 May 2023 | Archive Date 09 May 2023

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An exhilarating debut novel, tracing the harrowing journey of a mother and son fighting for survival and a future in a world ravaged by environmental disaster • "Not Alone kept me breathless with tension… [A] gripping adventure story.” —Emma Donoghue, New York Times bestselling author of Room and Haven

Five years ago, a microplastic storm wiped out most of the population. No infrastructure. No safe havens. No goodbyes.

Since then, Katie and Harry have lived in isolation in their small flat outside London. Katie forages, hunts the surviving animal population, and provides for Harry, who was born after the storm, and who has never left their little home. After years without human contact, Katie and Harry are shocked by the arrival of a threatening newcomer, just as Katie’s persistent cough seems to have taken a turn for the worse. But this proof of life beyond their familiar environment spurs Katie to undertake a previously unthinkable journey, in search of her fiancé, Jack, who never came home the day of the storm, and a different kind of life for Harry.

Outside of their protected bubble, Katie and Harry encounter an altered world, full of new dangers, other survivors--both friend and foe--and many surprises. Katie's resources, energy, and parenting abilities are pushed to the brink, as Harry's life and safety waver in the balance, knowing that the further they get from their flat, the harder it will be to return if things go wrong. Sarah K. Jackson combines beautiful language, palm-sweating adventure, and a deep, true-to-life parent-child bond that transcends its post-apocalyptic setting, in a debut that emphasizes the importance of resilience, hope, and sustainability today.
An exhilarating debut novel, tracing the harrowing journey of a mother and son fighting for survival and a future in a world ravaged by environmental disaster • "Not Alone kept me breathless with...

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ISBN 9780385548434
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Average rating from 41 members

Featured Reviews

It’s been five years since a monumental storm, caused by environmental catastrophe, has swept the globe and destroyed almost all life on earth. Katie and her son, Harry, born after the storm, are eking out an existence in a London apartment. She forages and hunts what she can to keep them alive. Believing themselves to be totally alone, they are shocked by the arrival of another person. Is it possible there are more survivors out there somewhere? Could Katie’s fiancee, Jack, be among them? Even as her persistent cough worsens, Katie and her son set off in search of others, maybe even Jack. This post apocalyptic story isn’t filled with zombies or monsters; instead it’s the story of a mother trying to balance hope with the need to protect her son. Remarkable

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Thank you to NetGalley and Doubleday books for this electronic advance reader copy.

Five years after a micro-plastic storm reduces human civilization to a barely-survivable landscape of polluted air, vegetation and wildlife, Katie and her four-year-old son, Harry, are eking out a hungry, always-vigilant existence in their flat outside of London. Mild seasons are difficult and winters teeter on a knife-edge of starvation. As Katie begins preparations for another long winter, her and Harry’s presence is discovered by a group of men from a neighboring settlement. In her panicked rush to react to the new threat, she uncovers a message long hidden from sight, left by her fiance, from whom she was separated during the storm. The message is one of hope as well as practical help and is the start of a long journey in search of a reunion and a different future.

Not Alone bears obvious similarities to other novels in a sub-genre I’ll call “Post-apocalyptic Travel Literature”. It’s members include Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, The Stand by Stephen King, The Road by Cormac McCarthy and The Wanderers by Chuck Wendig to name a few. The journey is long, there are no cell phones, few resources and dangers lurk around every corner. While the theme may be oft-repeated, it does make for bracing adventures, and this novel is no exception. Not Alone is unputdownable and unfolds at an excellent pace, expertly moving between the present and flashbacks before the storm.

This is Sarah K. Jackson’s first novel, but she’s an ecologist by trade, specializing in botany. The realism and detail she weaves into the realities of survival by foraging and hunting in an environment suffering a very specific type of pollution set the book apart from other eco-apocalyptic stories. Not Alone deals in specific, daily challenges related to survival rather than in looming, vague threats.

Beyond just a story of survival, this is the story of the survival of a mother and son. Jackson captures the instinct, sacrifice, love and exhaustion of motherhood, filtered through a lens of survival and desperation. Readers of Not Alone are likely to be reminded of The Road, but the similarities end with the parent/child main characters. We get a much different narrative approach from Jackson, with Katie’s risk calculations and plans made available to the reader in her internal dialogue.

Not Alone is a realistic novel that does not seem to be written to infuse hope, but rather to provide a snapshot of a possible future and its attendant difficulties.

This book is well worth your time and deserves hours carved out of your day for a one-sitting read. Not Alone is available to the public May, 2, 2023.

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The story feels so real. The details are exquisite. Well done.

Thank you to NetGalley and DoubleDay Books for the ARC.

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With an ongoing and pervasive sense of dread, this novel by Sarah K. Jackson, keeps you moving forward eagerly through the pages to find out whether Katie and her son, Harry, reach their destination. It’s five years since an environmental disaster hits the world, and Katie, alone except for her small son, must try to survive. Katie’s character is so well drawn, and deeply recognizable as a mother doing everything she can to keep her son safe, fed, and happy. This is a brilliant debut by Sarah K. Jackson. Thanks to NetGalley, the author, and publisher for the advanced copy. All opinions are my own.

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Incredible addition to the cli-fi canon. This book differed from other cli-fi I've read in that the people in this world had been doing everything "right"--they were all vegan and drove electric cars, etc. But it...didn't matter. When a big storm scatters toxic microplastics throughout the world, everything changes instantly. This book follows a young mother and her five year old son as they try to journey across an American wasteland to find the mother's boyfriend, whom she had presumed dead but now thinks could still be alive. It is bleak and not particularly hopeful, but it also didn't make me want to die so that's good!

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This book is way out of my typical reads, but when I was offered the chance for an ARC, I couldn’t refuse. It started a bit slow, but soon hooked me in. I was completely invested in how Katie and her son Harry would fare. Without giving anything away, it didn’t end the way I would’ve liked, but this makes it all the more realistic. I think an adaptation of this book on Hulu or Netflix would make a great miniseries!

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A remarkable novel so well written.A story of a mother and a son fighting for survival a haunting tale a book that stays with you.#netgalley #doubledaybooks

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Living in isolation after the population was wiped out by a microplastic storm, Katie and her son Harry are fighting for survival. But with fears of her declining health and her child's safety, Katie finally braves the outside world in search of her fiancé, who went missing five years prior.

Encountering dangers and friendly faces along the way,Katie and Harry had quite the journey. This novel had me sitting on the edge of my seat. I don’t think I’ve read a book that has had me in its grips as much as this one. Wow.
I highly recommend this novel to anyone that loves suspense and end-of-the-world genres.

The publisher provided ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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The fear is claustrophobic, for everything presents a threat. The very air, the water, the earth itself, has been poisoned. A young mother and her son are isolated in this dangerous world, in hiding from the few others who are still living. Katie doesn’t know if her fiancé is alive. The microplastic storm divided them, and they missed each other, Jack leaving a message that became lost.

Katie has given birth and raised Harry on her own, leaving him locked in their apartment as she forages for food and water. She trusts no one. When a man discovers her, and wants her to come with him, she knows it is time for her and Harry to leave.

The world outside is full of terror for the isolated Harry, and for his mother, who knows that only with persistence care can they avoid death.

As I read this novel, I felt the stress of continual suspense and fear.

The story is filled with details of this world in crisis, the efforts needed to survive, the fears of a mother protecting her child, and a child’s first encounter with the outside world.

This dark novel is about what a mother will do to save the life of her child. And, underlying the story, is a warning of how ignoring warning signs leads to ecological disaster and the collapse of civilization.

I received a free egalley from the publisher through NetGalley. My review is fair and unbiased.

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I have a soft spot for post-apocalyptic novels featuring a parent/guardian and child traversing a devastated landscape devoid of law and order. Name it, and I've already read it or its on my tbr list.

To me, this was one of those rare novels that achieved the perfect balance between a character study with an actual hero's journey (of a sort). So, kudos to Sarah K. Jackson on this end. The character studies I've read lately tend to forgo plotlines entirely in order to focus on the characters, which isn't really my cup of tea.

I liked the trigger warnings present in the beginning of this book. This is an extremely bleak novel that deals with life as a woman and mother in a post-apocalyptic UK. We don't read much from a woman's POV when it comes to this trope, so I really appreciated the fact that this story tackles survival and safety issues for a single woman with a young child.

There were several instances of sexual assault and attempted sexual assault. And in the context of this novel, in a world where institutions have broken down, it makes sense. We do see examples of good and decent men though, but at times, the cruelty that the MC experienced overshadowed this fact.

I loved how the author described the post-apocalyptic landscape in detail, especially regarding the effects of microplastic pollution on the flora and fauna. At every instance, you're able to feel like you're there in the scene along with the characters. When Katie experienced fear whenever she or her son came in contact with the microplastic dust, I could feel the tension in the air like a slowly ticking time bomb.

Other reviewers have mentioned that the MC, Katie, wasn't likeable. She wasn't a saint, and in a dog-eat-dog world, this seemed realistic. As the reader, you could see that she tried her best to raise her child with absolutely zero help or resources, so it seemed appropriate that she'd be bitter and callous at times.

Without any spoilers, I actually liked the ending. It was realistic and it was a punch to the gut. But yet, there were still tendrils of hope to make it an uplifting ending.

I just wish that there were more descriptions when it came to the breakdown in society. You're left to fill in the blanks with the bits of information that was given.

Other than that, this was a good addition to the post-apocalyptic fiction genre.

Thank you to Doubleday and NetGalley for this arc.

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