With aching arms, Malorie rows two small children down an unseen river. All are tightly blindfolded, straining their ears for the slightest sound, knowing that they may be surrounded by unseen dangers, but that their eyes must stay shut if they are to have any chance of survival.
From this strange beginning spins a tale told with alternating chapters of the frightening and bizarre present and the even stranger past that carried Malorie to this point. From the initial sparse outbreak of inexplicable suicides, to a population dwindling to tiny pockets of terrified people hiding behind blackened windows and barricaded doors, theories abound about the cause; but solving the mystery is not the heart of the book. Survival is. The persistence of life. The meaning that people have for each other. The strength in facing the truth about what needs to be done, and doing it, even in the midst of deepest grief.
Bird Box by Josh Malerman is a literary apocalyptic horror novel, mesmerizing and even beautiful, despite some truly ugly and bone-deep scary scenes. In the absence of civilization, like the darkest of nights, we can see more clearly the light of our souls, cast by our words and actions. And perhaps the shadows thrown by our own weaknesses are clearer too. In Malerman’s book, it’s the human characters whose cruelty and madness haunt me, far more than the supposed monsters.