2012: Plague Survivors
Eileen Woodlawn locked herself in her basement a year into the Plague pandemic with a stockpile of food and water and stayed inside until she knew the pandemic was done. When she went outside, fellow survivors Mark and Jose were the first to find her. She spent a great deal of time over the next fourteen years sparring with Mark over the origin of the Plague. The means to which she knew the pandemic was over, at the same time as the other survivors did, remained a matter of controversy. According to Charlinder, her personality can be summed up as: bright, courageous, hard-working and supportive, as well as stubborn, self-righteous, tactless and more than a trifle arrogant.
Mark was a retired fireman whose avoidance of Plague infection can only be attributed to an absurdly strong constitution. Towards the end of the pandemic, he met Jose and, despite their not having a language in common, stuck with him until they met Eileen and other survivors. After they settled the farm on the Paleola River, Mark seized opportunities to argue with Eileen about what started the Plague and what that meant for the survivors’ future. Eileen referred to him in her diary as “the old man” and called him a jackass to his face.
Jose was a carpenter of Salvadoran origin who lived in the same town as Mark and Eileen. After they settled the Paleola farm, Jose taught his woodworking skills to the other men while Eileen and Marissa taught him English.
Marissa dropped out of high school in her freshman year when the first of her classmates fell ill and over the next two years, all her family died while she managed to stay alive. She became just like a little sister to Eileen.
Laura was an ordained minister before the Plague killed all her family and congregation. She was in the original twenty survivors who settled the Paleola farm, and once there, she took on the entirely thankless role of attempting to mediate between Mark and Eileen. She briefly took over teaching the village’s children when Eileen was unable to run the schoolhouse.
2130: Plague Descendants
Charlinder was born in 2110 and became the new schoolteacher of Paleola at eighteen. His mother, Lydia, didn’t have any more children, which is highly unusual for a post-Plague family. Since she didn’t have any daughters, she taught Charlinder how to spin and knit when he was around seven years old so that he wouldn’t need her to make his clothes as an adult. As a result, Charlinder bonded with several girls around his age and as a young adult would much rather join them at Spinners’ Square than join the other young men at hunting. Since Lydia died when he was seventeen, he lives alone with her older half-brother, Roy. Because he has no siblings in a community with avuncular families, he has no expectation of becoming a family man like his uncle. When his neighbors begin fighting over the origin of the Plague more than usual, Charlinder considers it part of his responsibilities as a teacher to find out the truth. According to his Anima, he is intelligent, honest, caring and driven. Also, oversensitive, single-minded, more than a little arrogant and comically naive.
He is Charlinder’s only remaining family member in 2130, and the first person to hear his nephew’s plan to walk to the site of the Plague pandemic’s beginning.
She has been a sort of mother-figure to Charlinder since Lydia died, in fact she acts like a mom to everyone in Paleola who seems abandoned, bereaved, neglected or wayward. She is on the village council and runs Spinners’ Square with an iron fist. When Charlinder announces his plan to learn about the Plague’s cause, she takes a rather dim view of his chances at success.
She oozes Essense of Raging Bitch from every pore, but she’s their raging bitch.
Sweet, helpful and inquisitive.
She’s a frequently irritated young mother who adores her toddling son, Stuart and is regularly seen sparring with her brother, Bruce and fending off the attentions of her paramour, Kenny.
Friendly, seems unsophisticated, yet deceptively observant.
Loyal, steady, easily amused.
The other young people call him Brucie, though never to his face. He’s Yolande’s brother and annoys her by trying to convince her to come with him to the Sermons.
He takes a break from being the goofy guy around the village to complain to Charlinder that Brucie is trying to keep him away from Yolande and Stuart.
Robert’s sister; has the dubious distinction of getting kicked out of Spinners’ Square by Miriam. She reminds Charlinder that Eileen Woodlawn was never able to explain how she knew when it was safe to come outside.
Ruth’s brother; successfully shocks Charlinder by asking to share the Faithful theory of the Plague pandemic to the schoolchildren.
He is the village medic as of 2130 and one of the oldest people in the village. He convinces Miriam that Charlinder’s journey is a necessary endeavor, though Charlinder still finds it rather irritating that Miriam is willing to listen to Darrell and not him.
She was born in Elbasan, Albania in the 20th century and moved to Florence, Italy for university, where she met friends who taught her skills that precious few people have. It was due to these abilities, though not within her control, that Gentiola lived through the Plague pandemic and in fact stopped aging altogether by 2012. Charlinder meets her in the countryside near what used to be Bologna, and she is absolutely thrilled to have a foreigner at her house. While previously he had no connection to the 20th and early 21st centuries except for Eileen’s journals, now he has Gentiola alive and well to tell him about the world before the Plague.
There are some great characters in this book. Personally I loved Charlinder’s Uncle Roy. Any man who would send a young man off on his walk half way around the world with a sheep as a companion is the type of character I love.
Queen Anne’s Lace, Lacey for short (the sheep), provides Charlinder with exactly the type of side-kick he needs. Their relationship on the journey also provides a lot of the humour in the book, as well as a lot of insight in to Charlinder’s character.
–Jo Bryant at Chronicles of Illusions