Marcel Theroux’s Far North is a post-apocalyptic novel narrated by the character Makepeace Hatfield. Theroux follows Makepeace as she searches for remnants of human civilization. Makepeace struggles with hope and considers the nature of humanity as she attempts to overcome tragic events.
Before the world ended, Makepeace’s father, James Hatfield, was a Quaker who took his family away from the wealth and luxury of America’s cities to live in the Siberian wilderness. Not alone in his desire to rediscover a way of living in the wilderness, Hatfield and others like him negotiated with the Russian government to be allocated land in the northlands. Thanks to global warming, Russia’s far north has become open to agriculture.
Climate change had a more damaging impact elsewhere. Although Makepeace does not know what happened, a sense of desperation for food and security led to war and, ultimately, anarchy. The pacifist Quakers continued to farm during the wars, but after the fighting ended their isolated cities were rediscovered by the now starving and desperate remnants of civilization.
At first, some of the Quaker cities, like James Hatfield’s Evangeline, attempted to welcome these newcomers and to integrate them into their spiritual, disciplined way of life. However, the newcomers resented the Quakers for their prosperity and soon preyed upon them. No longer isolated, the Quakers had to decide whether to remain pacifists. James Hatfield continued to preach to his flock that they stick to their ideals and lead the desperate to become good by their good example. Others, like Eben Callard, were unconvinced. Evangeline became an idealistically divided city, and when James Hatfield traveled from his home, his house was invaded and Makepeace was raped and brutally attacked. The intruders threw lye on her face, leaving her permanently scarred. When she recovers, Makepeace can only remember being called Jezebel, though during her fits she implicated Eben Callard, her father’s leading rival.
Evangeline created a constabulary school soon after, and Makepeace was one of the first to sign up. Although they tried to keep the peace, the town continued to decline and die. So far as Makepeace knows, the rest of the world declined as well. When Far North begins, Makepeace is Evangeline’s last inhabitant. She is largely self-sufficient, but she trades whiskey with other desperate survivors. Scarred and muscular, Makepeace is always assumed to be a man, a mistake she rarely corrects.
Makepeace survives in part because of her caution. She never leaves home without her pistols and rifle. She prefers to make her own bullets rather than trade for scavenged ones. She tends to her garden and her house, and she takes care of her horse. Although she lives in a desolate ruin, Makepeace collects and hoards books, hoping that future generations will be able to use the knowledge within them to rebuild humanity’s past accomplishments.
Makepeace’s life has continued unchanged for some time, so she is surprised to discover another person living in Evangeline. When the young Chinese man reaches into his jacket, Makepeace shoots him in the arm and goes to investigate. It turns out that he was only reaching for a dull knife. Makepeace takes the man back to her home and tends to his wounds. When the young man wakes up, Makepeace discovers that they don’t speak a common language, but she is able to learn the man’s name, Ping. Makepeace and Ping slowly become acquainted with each other, and Makepeace even trusts Ping with her home and a rifle while she goes trading.
Makepeace truly is a capable survivor. During her trading mission, she trades her whiskey for meat, but on her way home wakes up to discover that her pistols have been stolen while she slept. She tracks down the thief, waits for nightfall, steals his clothing, and sets fire to his tent. Makepeace then leads him into the forest until he freezes to death. Makepeace retrieves her pistols and returns...
(The entire section is 1,612 words.)