The Audacious Book Club: The Survivalists
Our February 2023 selection
Stubborn, complex women protagonists are one of my favorite discoveries in a novel, and Aretha, the character who is our guide through Kashana Cauley’s novel The Survivalists, is exactly that. Aretha’s wry wit juxtaposed with her disastrous love life — and her determination to go it alone if things don’t pan out soon — is deeply relatable to those of us who have had the misfortune of dipping our toes (or submerging our whole damn selves) into the (cess)pool of modern dating. When Aretha tells us just a few pages in that she’s chosen the bar where she’ll meet the mysterious Aaron for her third first date that week because the bathroom “had a window that pushed up easily in case of trouble and would drop her right back onto the street where she started, sans man,” I knew I’d follow this woman anywhere. Who among us hasn’t made decisions based on bathroom quality?
But what makes Cauley’s novel so engrossing is that Aretha and Aaron’s love story is far from typical. We quickly learn that Aaron—who plucks Aretha’s heartstrings with his story of surviving the post-Hurricane Sandy flooding—isn’t quite what he seems, and neither are the people he lives with. They’re survivalists, amassing guns and supplies while anticipating societal collapse, perhaps even yearning for it. And instead of running away, Aretha does something unexpected: she embraces their lifestyle. What follows is a dark, comedic, and disturbing exploration of hipster nihilism, stretching from Brooklyn to the other boroughs and told through the lens of a very smart woman who is making very bad decisions because of a man.
The Survivalists is a fast-paced, gripping read, and especially relevant as we teeter at the precipice of climate crisis, bludgeoned constantly with police violence masquerading as safety, and entering the fourth year of a pandemic with no end in sight. I hope you all will enjoy this witty adventure of a novel too, and. I’m excited to discuss this with you over the next couple of weeks. Look for our first discussion thread on Monday, February 6th with more conversation throughout the month. If you want to know more about the book before diving in, here are reviews from The New York Times, NPR, The Washington Post and The Cut.
Cannot wait to start this book! My only to-do this weekend! ❤️🙏🏻☀️