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As the story opens, In the Midst of Tribulation (Bella) finds a rather motley group of exhausted, beleaguered travelers hiking the mountainous terrain of Northern California, looking for Jay, a woman who moved to the area years before in order to escape a society moving toward disaster. Jay has been living off the land for years.The group looking for her is made up of Susan, who was once Jay’s partner, Susan’s current partner, Martha and Susan’s two teenage children. Piper, a friend, who was also Martha’s former partner when they worked as police officers before the war, accompanies them. Also with them are Martha’s rather acerbic and homophobic sister, Doris, and her teenaged daughter.
As the group attempts to reach Jay, we learn the backstory of what has happened to the United States at the hands of the radical Right, along with the state of affairs the group experienced just before leaving home in the San Francisco Bay Area. The event referred to as the Christian Cleansing, an all-out war against those who would not or could not conform to the Right’s fundamentalist views, has left the USA decimated, without basic essentials. Lawlessness has abounded, people have turned mercenary, and everyone is in danger. People are being killed and women are at risk of rape and murder at the hand of the rabble. Because of this perilous atmosphere, the group decided to strike out and move away from the more populated city. Their goal: to find Jay and take her up on an invitation she issued to Susan a long time ago to come to the mountains and live.
When the group finally reaches Jay, they find some pleasant surprises, but they also have a lot to learn and even more to cope with. Living off the grid in the middle of nowhere is not without dangers and difficulties, and each person needs to find a place within the newly formed community. The story presents us with a fascinating group dynamic and some different personalities that endear as well as madden. It becomes clear that almost everyone in the group is dealing with feelings of loss and abandonment in one way or another, and how each person copes, how the group interacts while dealing with these issues, makes for an intriguing story.
The details of what it takes to survive, living without the benefit of utilities and services, is well described without belaboring and bogging down the story. The adults struggle to settle into their new lives while the kids adapt fairly easily. They even consider it a great adventure, at times, although they aren’t without their own issues. Jay is a rather brooding character, but she is very generous with everything that she has. Jay’s partner, Harmony, is conspicuous by her absence, and the tale of what has happened to her unfolds with the rest of the story. In the end, it becomes apparent that Jay has good reason to feel depressed and moody. She also doesn’t suffer fools well and insists right from the beginning that everyone must pull her own weight if she wants to be part of the group. Doris, a bit of a right-wing zealot herself, is someone the reader may want to choke more than once as the story progresses, as do the characters, and with some justification.
Griggs tells this story with a passion that conveys the emotions of the people living it. In the Midst of Tribulation is a study in survival and overcoming adversity, and there is plenty of adversity to be overcome. Although speculative in genre, the story is told with heart and with just a little romance thrown in for good measure. It gives fascinating insight into what drives people in their need to survive. It’s a story of triumph of the human spirit in the midst of terrible circumstances. It will edify the reader to find out how these people handle adversity, and it will make the reader want to cheer for each obstacle they overcome. This work is fine offering from a talented storyteller.
In the Midst of Tribulation
By Mary Griggs
Paperback, 9781594933776, 256 pp.