Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Book Review: The Displacements

By Jami Denison

When you think of horror, Stephen King is the first name that comes to mind. Vampires, clowns in sewers, haunted hotels… the supernatural scary stuff that keeps us up at night. But the scariest things aren’t events that can’t happen. It’s the events that can.

Author Bruce Holsinger has followed up his satire of helicopter parents, The Gifted School, with The Displacements, a book so realistic and chilling that it should vault his reputation to a whole new level. For residents of Florida like me, read this book at your own peril. You’ll be plotting your move out of state before you’re done.

In the near future, the first-ever Category Six hurricane heads toward Florida’s east coast. While at first it seems it will merely skim the state, a last-minute change in its path puts Miami in the bull’s eye. For Daphne Larsen-Hall, a sculptor and surgeon’s wife, this means a sudden dash toward evacuation with her college-dropout stepson Gavin, her pre-teen daughter Mia, her youngest child Oliver, and the family dog Cricket. Her husband Brantley is valiantly trying to get his patients out of state, and will meet them later. When Daphne accidentally leaves her purse behind, her wealthy lifestyle crumbles more quickly than it takes the hurricane to destroy Miami. With no cash, no credit cards, and no phone, Daphne is forced to abandon the family minivan by the side of the road when it runs out of gas. Soon after, the family’s on a bus to a giant FEMA camp in Oklahoma—and poor Cricket gets left behind at an animal shelter. In the camp, things go from bad to worse as Daphne gets an up-close look at life for those in America who have almost nothing, and each of her children adjusts in their own way. Racism, drug addiction, violence—it’s all here. 

Who hasn’t seen footage of those miles-long traffic jams, full of people stranded in an ice storm, fleeing a sudden wildfire, or on the run from a hurricane? I’ve been there myself, fleeing Hurricane Irma in 2017, staying up all night and praying that its path would move from my hometown of St. Pete. Holsinger’s descriptions are so vivid, and Daphne is so real, that it’s impossible not to imagine yourself in her shoes. One small mistake at the wrong time was all it took to completely derail her life. 

Daphne is not the only point-of-view character, however. Her stepson and daughter’s perspectives are shown, as well as the local drug dealer, Tate, and Rain, the FEMA administrator in charge of the camp. Beyond the characters, Holsinger also includes interviews, maps, news articles and Congressional testimony, implying that this hurricane and the events at the Oklahoma FEMA camp will reverberate widely for years. 

As the story progressed, however, Daphne became less universal. Her situation gets worse due to her husband’s secret actions; her mistake wasn’t leaving the purse behind as much as it was trusting the wrong man—a different type of story. And while there are lots of hints that the climax could be literally earth-shattering, I felt the book ended more on a whimper than a bang.

Still, the horror genre is a genre about resiliency. At the end of the day, the heroes have fought the big bad. Some have died in the effort. But the monster has been defeated, and sometimes the protagonists go on to live another day. The Displacements is no different. Whether this hope for our planet is earned or misguided is something that remains to be seen. 

Thanks to Riverhead Books for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.

No comments: