What would you do, if suddenly, drinkable water was no longer available?
Alyssa is an ordinary girl. Smart. Athletic. She shares the concerns of the average teenage girl. Until one day, everything changes. Her home in Southern California is frequently impacted by drought, so it’s not uncommon to hear people talking about water conservation and concern about what the world’s changing climate will mean for California’s water supply. On that particular Saturday, the TV was on and someone was talking about how Arizona and Nevada, who are also suffering from the effects of drought, have just cut off the supply of water from the Colorado River to California.
“Turning off the entire river like it’s a spigot? Can they do that?”Uncle Basil, p.11 (e-book version – page number will vary by format)
With no running water, Alyssa’s parents go to the beach where temporary desalination plants have been set up. When they don’t come home, Alyssa and her brother Garrett, and the neighbor boy, Kelton, go in search of Alyssa’s parents. The beach is empty. One of the mobile desalination plants is on its side. Another is smoking as though it were recently on fire. There are bodies floating in the water. Alyssa will do whatever it takes to find her parents. And water.
The human body can only survive about three days without water. What happens in the six days in which this story occurs borders on apocalyptic.
“This is the true core of human nature. When we’ve lost the strength to save ourselves, we somehow find the strength to save each other.”10:19 (Audiobook)
When disaster strikes, some will respond by adding to the destruction, some will ruthlessly act in only their own best interest, and some will respond with kindness. I thought about what my response would be. Would I do whatever it took to meet my own needs and those of my immediate family, or would I tend to the needs of others too, at the expense of having the resources to care for my own? It’s difficult to say. I really appreciated that some of the characters in this story decided to help others no matter the cost.
“Wasn’t it Jacqui who told us the human body was 60% water? Well, now I know what the rest is. The rest is dust. The rest is ash. It’s sorrow, and it’s grief. But above all that; in spite of all that, above all that, binding us together is hope and joy. And a wellspring of all the things that still might be.”11:05 (Audiobook)
Six days may not seem like a long time, but six days without water means death. In the story, many thousands of people died of dehydration within the first couple of days of the disaster. Some survived because they prepared ahead of time. Some survived because they worked together as a team. In the end, when it seemed like all was lost, there were some who found hope.
While the book tries to make a link between the catastrophe in the story and global climate change, the link seems weak, at best. The true message of the story is about conservation. While I personally hold opinions about climate change that are not politically correct, I do believe that we are to treat our environment and its resources with respect. I believe that it is a necessity of life on this planet for humankind to cultivate, collect, and refine the resources that are available to us, but that we should do so responsibly and not wastefully.