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A Gift Upon the Shore

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  1,116 Ratings  ·  139 Reviews
In the Pacific Northwest of the near future, the golden age has ended in apocalypse. Nuclear war has unleased firestorms and the killing cold of nuclear winter. Earthquakes and tidal waves have ravaged the West Coast of America. Desperate violent looters comb the devastated land. And a horrifying pandemic lays waste to the remaining human population. But one of the few sur ...more
Paperback, 388 pages
Published October 1st 2000 by (first published 1990)
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May 20, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of PA genre
A Gift Upon The Shore is a post-apocalyptic novel that owes much to Walden by Henry David Thoreau, Earth Abides by George R. Stewart and A Canticle for Lebowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr. This is not a tale of gun-battles, epic struggles, mutants or invading hordes. Nor does it feature (predominately) male heroes who are are brave, resolute, resourceful and armed to the teeth. It doesn't even have all that much in common with the classic post-apocalyptic/nuclear war novel Alas, Babylon by Pat Fran ...more
Jul 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who loves books
I first read this book in the early 1990s, I think, and I was struck by the beautiful story that Wren tells of a post-apocalyptic time in the near future set in a small town on the northern Oregon coast.

The characters are magnificent. The reader comes to care deeply what happens to these people, particularly as the love the main characters have for each other is revealed.

And the central premise of the story is... books. Thousands of them, preserved for the future as best they can amidst the re
With her Phoenix Legacy, M. K. Wren did for science fiction romance what Mary Stewart did for fantasy - except that fewer people noticed. That's a shame, because the Phoenix trilogy is terrific.

Despite that, I didn't pick up A Gift Upon the Shore for many years, mostly because I'm not much of a post-apocalyptarian. But with its recent reissue, and Wren's confounding failure to write any other books (This is her only other SF novel, though she also wrote a series of mystery stories.), I decided
Another novel of the nuclear apocalypse, focusing on the attempt of two women to stockpile as many books as possible in order to bequeath some semblance of culture and civilization to the descendants that they hope will some day rebuild humanity (note: based on everything else in the novel, this is a 100% foolhardy hope). The narrative is presented as a frame story where Mary Hope, aged 65ish, is telling a child the story of Mary Hope, aged 25ish, and her misadventures around the time of the col ...more
4.5 stars really. What kept it from being a 5 star book for me was that there was a preachy quality to the book that, at times, bothered me. The women in the book were just as set in their thinking at times as the religious folk were and yet unable to see the hypocrisy of having disdain for another's viewpoint while thinking their's was the only viewpoint that was correct was bothersome. The very behaviour that they found disturbing in the people of the religious sect, they themselves exhibited ...more
Jan 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: free thinkers and those looking to immanentize the eschaton
Recommended to Charity by: Chloe
As you already know, I love a good post-apocalyptic novel involving religious zealots, especially when it also involves rational, free-thinking bibliophiles on a mission to save books (and knowledge) for future generations. A Gift Upon the Shore is fantastically crafted story filled with friendships, hardships, philosophical discussions, drama, hope, and despair. I loved the epigrams M.K. Wren selected and saved a few as favorites. So thought-provoking and epic, this story just sucks you in and ...more
I received an electronic copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley.

The entry for M.K. Wren in the "Encyclopedia of Science Fiction" aptly describes this novel as ambitious and eloquent. I was unfamiliar with her work before coming across this ebook reissue, but now I will eagerly pick up the "Phoenix" fantasy trilogy for which she is apparently best-known.

"A Gift Upon the Shore" uses the post-apocalyptic scenario to delve into two unique responses to wide-scale tragedy where civilization ha
Mar 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 14, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: eschatology
As I read this book, I thought about why it is that I've read so much "apocalyptic" fiction. In the past, I enjoyed watching the world shrivel and burn up; I didn't believe that such a thing would happen. I still don't. I think that the world continues on, maybe without me or you, maybe without all of us, but still here for someone or something else. I don't enjoy the death throes anymore. I find them vulgar and sad, and often eye-rolling. It's what comes AFTER that intrigues me the most. For in ...more
Johnathon Neist
Originally published in 1990, it seems like the publisher is re-releasing this title in the midst of Hunger Games hysteria. It will play well with readers that can handle more character development and a slower pace than the aforementioned series. It may not play well with those sensitive to criticism of the Christian religion.

The story is set after a large nuclear explosion occurs in the United States, and the narrative focuses upon how the character not only survives the loss of nearly everyth
I really disliked this book. It was heavy-handed, flat yet terribly over-written (I had to start skimming descriptive passages, as it was just way overdone, yes, it's a beautiful field/ocean/flower but get on with it), and not engaging. Mary and Rachel's story is a poorly disguised allegory against the Bible-thumping Christians who basically ruin everything. I'm as atheist as they come, but howdy I wasn't expecting to be force-fed a dissection of all the ways Christianity Is Completely Super Stu ...more
I received this book on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I really wanted and expected to like it; it's a reissue of a book published in 1990, and offers a more female viewpoint on the story of nuclear apocalypse and survival, even regrowth. Unfortunately, I just couldn't get into it: the pace is slow, the writing feels stodgy, and it feels more than a bit judgemental about Christianity -- or Christians, at least. I don't see any reason why the more Christian a character professes to b ...more
Brenda Pike
Feb 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Brenda by: Sharon
I give this four stars and not five only because I was a little disturbed at how preachy it could get in its anti-religion. However, it's refreshing to have a book in which that's the main theme. And it hits notes that are close to my heart: love of books and post-apocalyptic futures.

I loved the frame of an old woman telling her story to a child—it was a very convincing perspective, and it surprised me that it drew me in so much. I also loved the character of Rachel, idealized though she is. I a
Apr 25, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels
A book for lovers of books, A Gift Upon the Shore sets the scene after Nuclear war and plague have wiped out most of the human population and torn civilization apart. Against this backdrop, two women struggle with essential questions of what is valuable, and what parts of ourselves we can save.
John Wiltshire
Jan 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read this many years ago but it stuck in my mind. So much did it stick that I've just been recommending it to someone who's interested in post-apocalyptic novels. I'd forgotten its title and author, so just Google'd "post-apocalyptic, two women, Portland, pandemic" and found it. Don't you just love the internet?
This really is an excellent, literary take on a post-apocalyptic world. It's frustrating as all get-go, however, so be warned going in.
Sometimes the pandemic isn't the worst thing you
Aug 10, 2017 marked it as abandoned
this book looked like it had everything I like in a book, but I just didn't connect with it. The characters just seem subtly off - not behaving the way I think people would actually behave - and the conflict feels like it will be extremely predictable.
Nov 05, 2012 rated it it was ok
When I first read this book (nearly 20 years ago) I was in my twenties... I was young, I was idealistic, I was in love with books, and I thought I had come across something very special.

I have re-read it several times in the ensuing years, and have noticed my view on this work shift. Having read it again, now in my forties, I struggled to find that same connection. Now I see it as rather hypocritical. The author speaks time and again of having expanded views, of how being dogmatic can harm, how
Aug 19, 2013 rated it liked it
This book has teeth! For being a post-nuclear-apocalyptic story, this was very original. I loved the idea of people collecting books for the education and regeneration of humanity. This was a concept that really appealed to my love of books throughout this entire story and made me keep turning pages in order to support the characters.

These are characters that are deeply written, with a lot of personality traits that make you want to get to know them better. One of the things that I found enjoya
Sep 04, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sff, oregon, 1990s, favorites
Gift Upon the Shore is one of my favorite post-apocalytic tales. Using it to post Gearhart Elk link.


Post-apocalypse/dying-of-the-light yarn set in coastal Oregon, from the author of paperback science-fiction tales and mysteries. In the near future, a series of disasters reduces the world to rubble: nuclear war, a Lassa fever pandemic, a huge earthquake that destroys most of California, and gangs of lunatic vandals to finish off the remainder.
Vince Darcangelo

It’s interesting reading M.K. Wren’s classic novel nearly a quarter century since its release in 1990. For one thing, a nuclear apocalypse sounds downright quaint and makes me eerily nostalgic for my childhood fears of nuclear annihilation.

Aside from that, A Gift Upon the Shore is timeless—and even prescient. Following a wave of destruction, two women begin building a library in coastal Oregon, dedicated to preserving the great works of literature, history
Amanda Caldwell
The only problem I had with this book is how Christian were portrayed. Just because you're a Christian (or any other religion) doesn't mean that you have a cult-mentality nor hate people of other religions... nor see science as blasphemy and so on and so on. However, in this context of nuclear holocaust I could see how with the right ingredients such as fear and desperation it could come to something of that sort.

I did think this book was great, it was amazingly written. The prose was beautiful
Jul 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Rachel takes Mary into her home and together they live through the end. Day by day they endure. Until Rachel comes up with a plan: they will preserve the thousands of books they've scavenged, their gift to the future. With this, they start to live.

Forty years in the future, Mary takes on an apprentice and tells him the story, Rachel's story. And with this conflict in the community in which she lives comes to a head. Some ultra-religious members, steeped in their own brand of post-apocalyptic Chr
Nov 27, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: post-apocalyptic
Really good but it also made me very angry and anxious. The descriptions of "The End" were chilling from the initial breakdown of society to the graphic depiction of nuclear winter and the following period of high UV radiation with its devastating effect on wildlife and nature in general. What really wound me up was the ultra conservative religious group that comes into Mary's life and tries to impose their beliefs on her, preferring ignorance and "faith" to Mary's attempts to keep learning aliv ...more
T.S. S. Fulk
Mar 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
4.5 Stars

This was a wonderful (is that possible?) Post-Apocalypse story about ideological clashes. The only problem is that the main antagonist for the story is Fundamentalism is portrayed rather cardboardish (but maybe Fundamentalism is cardboardish) as is the two avatars of the ideology. My own fundamentalist upbringing has a lot more shading and complex details. ISIS and the Taliban, however, are often portrayed in the media as being similar (although more extreme) than the Arkists in A Gift
Joe Stamber
Sep 22, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2015
A Gift Upon the Shore is not so much a post apocalyptic novel as story of the human spirit, friendship, endurance and the will to survive. As the tale develops, it becomes a study of tolerance and intolerance, particularly of how blind religious faith can lead to intolerance and worse. The main character, Mary, tells the story as a series of flashbacks during her relating of past events to a teenage pupil, Stephen, many years later. This device works reasonably well, although I found some passag ...more
Feb 12, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author does not shy away from awkward or contentious topics, and yet shows how love and goodness can keep people together, and keep civilization going.

Like most post-apocalyptic novels it ends with a message of hope, and a sense that the survivors might be able to rebuild, but the real strength is in the characters.

Definitely worth reading.
May 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
WOW this book was completely amazing, written 17 years ago, in a world where the world as we know it has ended due to fever plague and a nuclear war. Two women are left, Rachel and Mary. This is their story of survival. I sobbed at the end, it felt so real, it felt as if this is a possibility for us all. I URGE you to read this.
Oct 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
Tantalizingly morose story about not only nuclear war but a deadly virus as well. Mary and Rachel are wonderfully characterized survivors in a pulpit-pounding world where evangelistic prophets rule. A bleak look at what could be and heart-felt dealing with the loss of everything as we know it.
Apr 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This is one of the best books I've ever read. I'd recommend it to anyone.
Feb 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
The most realistic post-apocalyptic story I have read.
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Martha Kay Renfroe is an Oregon writer, author of mystery and science fiction under the penname M.K. Wren. Her work includes the "Conan Flagg" mystery series and the post-apocalyptic novel A Gift Upon the Shore, set along the Oregon coast.
More about M.K. Wren...

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“For as there are misanthropists, or haters of men, there are also misologists, or haters of ideas, and both spring from the same cause, which is ignorance of the world. —PLATO (428–348 B.C.), PHAEDO” 2 likes
“I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me. —SIR ISAAC NEWTON (1642–1727)” 1 likes
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