Christopher M. HoodNov 7, 2022
A road trip novel, The Revivalists (Harper, 2022) is intimate, funny, and at times, shocking. It has only the dystopian setting in common with Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. While Cormac’s characters are shadow figures on a stage devoid of meaning, our narrator, Bill, and Penelope, his wife, seem like people we know, or even, reflections of ourselves. Their concerns and reactions serve as mirrors for us to imagine ourselves in a future where 70% of the population died, and the conveniences of modern life have vanished. Bill, a psychologist, and his wife, Penelope, a skilled fund manager, have experienced different stages of their marriage, including initial intimacy followed by the challenges of raising a willful daughter. Bill, easy-going, perhaps almost lethargic at times, is conflict averse, but Penelope, a Black woman who fought for everything she’s ever had, is determined to steer her daughter in the right direction in life.
When the pandemic separates parents and daughter on different sides of the continent, and they learn through the ham radio that their daughter is joining a dangerous cult, Penelope is galvanized into action, insistent that they must come to the rescue. There ensues an odyssey through the USA, and encounters with idealists and opportunists of varying ideologies, as well as the lonely or loony. A love story about two people with different dispositions, as well as the damaged people they come into contact with, The Revivalists is a meditation on how far we’re willing to go for someone we love, as well as an exploration of what happens when the fabric of society unravels.