Katharine Haake's Assumptions We Might Make About the Postworld is such a pleasure to read and re-read. With their sometimes haunting, sometimes hilarious, always fantastical tales, these parables place us on steep literary heights, where we find ourselves looking down at a poignantly despoiled, comically unspooling world. After each story I ended up feeling warm, giddy, very precarious, and hungry for more.—Rod Val Moore
Lyrical, provocative, and deeply haunting, The Time of Quarantine takes us into a near-distant future of post-human environmental collapse to chronicle the tale of a boy raised alone in the woods by computers at the end of the world—or is it? As the sole surviving member of an ill-fated Intentional Community designed to escape world's-end plagues and convinced he is alone on earth, the boy—now a man—is determined to carry out the final wishes of his father and fulfill his stoic duties of being merely human. But when he discovers, as if by accident, that everything he's always imagined to be true is instead a lie, he decides to leave the safety of his little spinning plot of spaceship earth and go back into the world to find out what comes next.
These stories, powerful eco-fables of down-home Americana, take place during the relentless rollover from one millennium to the next in a world remarkably like our own—and not. In one, for example, a girl exquisitely tuned to the sorrows of history ends up in a city blasted by light where she gets the chance to try dreaming things over. In another, a boy born lacking the ability to distinguish phonetic difference grows up to be a famed musician. There's a dapper, square-headed astronomer who discovers the origin of stars, and a tiny-footed climber who scales the tallest mountains in the world at the end of time. As mothers and children, husbands and wives struggle to make sense of whatever still remains, the one thing they share in common is their determination not to miss a single beat. Or, as one narrator remarks, "The next time we imagine the world, let's try to imagine it whole."
With the mesmerizing voice of a natural-born storyteller, Haake takes the "idea of a story," as she puts it, to create a novel that reads like a memoir. Or is it a memoir that reads like a parable? A parable that sounds like a poem? By book's end, neither the author nor reader can say. In a paean to the craft of writing and strength of language, Haake mixes her family's oral history with that of California's natural one, imparting a rich narrative of rivers, dams, and floods, mothers, sons and daughters. At its heart is the Shasta Dam project, both boondoggle and benefit to California's central valley. At its soul, two young girls, one raped, one blind. Weaving fiction with fact, Haake equates nature's basic elements (earth, fire, water) with those of mankind (love, livelihood, safety). Whether spinning a tale or stating the truth, Haake's eloquence has as much power to move mountains as the engineers and surveyors whose dams so dramatically changed the landscape of her beloved home.—Carol Haggas, Booklist
Katharine Haake's The Height and Depth of Everything is a book of journeys in which displaced women make unsettling forays into the new West. There, some violent expression of nature disrupts their lives, forcing them to readjust their vision of the world. Like the places they live—Washington state in the aftermath of the eruption of Mount St. Helens; the rubble-strewn epicenter of Southern California after a recent earthquake; the flooded streets of a desert town in Utah—the characters in this collection are all "picking up the pieces" of lives shaken by both natural and spiritual disaster. In the precariousness of their lives, these characters find redemption by submitting to the indeterminacy of human life.
The world, in this first collection of nine stories, seems an utterly desolate placea place of imposing landscapes and seascapes finely rendered where nothing is connected with anything else. Even the people are isolated, from each other, from themselves. It is the landscape of the spirit in the 1970s, where the anguish of Vietnam goes on forever and the nuclear cloud darkens the scene. In the opening story, ""Another Kind of Nostalgia,'' a man is stoned on drugs, demented, disfigured by acnea catalogue of physical and emotional disabilities. Characters in other tales are confused and reeling, adrift, caught in some perpetual postadolescent crisis that eludes definition. Motives are indiscernible, just as personality, which persistently eludes focus, remains ``opaque.'' A man, for no observable reason, shoots himself, his wife, his infant daughter, two friends. No one thinks to ask why; the fact is simply reported, like the weather. Haake's territory is a chilling, joyless one; in evoking it, she demonstrates that she is an impressively talented writer.—Publisher's Weekly