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The Rending and the Nest

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When ninety-five percent of the world’s population disappears for no apparent reason, Mira does what she can to create some semblance of a life: She cobbles together a haphazard community named Zion, scavenges the Piles for supplies they might need, and avoids loving anyone she can’t afford to lose. Four years after the Rending, Mira has everything under control. Almost.

Then Mira’s best friend, Lana, announces her pregnancy, the first in this strange world and a new source of hope for Mira. But Lana gives birth to an inanimate object—and soon other women of Zion do, too—and the thin veil of normalcy Mira has thrown over her new world begins to fray. As the community wrestles with the presence of these Babies, a confident outsider named Michael appears, proselytizing about the world outside Zion. He lures Lana away and when she doesn’t return, Mira has to decide how much she’s willing to let go in order to save her friend, her community, and her own fraught pregnancy.

304 pages, Hardcover

First published February 20, 2018

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About the author

Kaethe Schwehn

4 books43 followers
Kaethe Schwehn holds a B.A. from Gustavus Adolphus College and an M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her memoir, Tailings, won the Minnesota Book Award for creative nonfiction in 2015 and her debut novel, The Rending and the Nest, will be published by Bloomsbury in February of 2018. She has been the recipient of a Minnesota State Arts Board grant and a Loft Mentor Series award. Her fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared in numerous journals. She teaches at Saint Olaf College and lives in Northfield, Minnesota.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 168 reviews
Profile Image for Chelsea Humphrey.
1,483 reviews79k followers
November 26, 2017

This is another one of those books best going in blind; the less you know the better and you should probably come back to this review after you've read the book yourself. If you're wanting more detail minus overt spoilers, continue at your own risk. 

How do you write a review of one of the most complex books you've read to date? Technically this one isn't out until the end of February, but I wanted to include it in my Nebulous November challenge (where it fit the bill nicely I might add) so I moved it up my TBR. There is a lot of meat to this story; the plot is intensely intelligent and I'm still wrestling to grasp all the depths of the narrative. For a debut novel, the writing is excellent and almost poetic. I can truly see Schwehn making a name for herself in speculative fiction and being beloved by regular readers of the genre.

"I gave my love a cherry that had no stone
I gave my love a chicken that had no bone
I gave my love a baby with no crying
I gave my love a story that had no end
How can there by a cherry that has no stone?
How can there be a chicken that has no bone?
How can there be a baby with no crying?
How can there be a story with no end?"

- "The Riddle Song"

I feel like it's ok to mention the following, as it is presented to the reader in the prologue, but this is a very open-ended narrative. There is no explanation given for why the earth is in it's post-apocalyptic state; we are just told that 95% of the earth's population has disappeared and since these folks were left without an explanation, so are we. Personally, I enjoyed this set up and found it unique to have this dystopian world where we really don't know what happened. This added an additional level of suspense and tension as events began to unfold. I hate being so vague, but if you've read the blurb then you know as much as you should about the plot going in and will find out for yourself the rest, should you choose to read this book.

Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen?
- Romans 8:24

While I did have a few issues with the ending, and there were definitely a few spots along the way that lagged for me, the writing was so solid that I never considered giving up. This book touches on themes of motherhood, survival, and community in a way that makes you ponder not only whether it's truly impossible for us to find ourselves in this place in the future, but also how we could apply these lessons learned in our very real communities. I think most readers would admit to enjoying a plot that centers around a rag tag band of misfits joining together and overcoming hardships, and while this contains elements of that message for sure, it was so much more than that, yet not quite as upbeat.

My struggles with the book were just personal preference on formatting, inclusion/exclusion of information, and pacing. I found nowhere in this book a reason to not highly recommend it to others; this is perhaps just not my most well suited genre and I feel those who favor the philosophical fiction will be blown away by it's beautiful, heartbreaking ways. I really appreciate how well the cover art ties into the story, and I think if you give it a try, you too will find enjoyment from this odd little book.

Book #3 in my Nebulous November challenge!

Thanks Bloomsbury for providing my copy.
Profile Image for Hannah.
595 reviews1,055 followers
March 9, 2018
I love vague, quiet, introspective dystopian stories; the premise of this intrigued me to no end and I was hoping for something incredible. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely enjoyed this; just not as much as I thought I would.

I loved the vagueness of the world building. All the reader knows is that six years prior to the events of this book, most people and most things vanished without a trace. What is left of the things is mostly in random piles, while those who are left of the people have to try to make sense of the changed world. This exploration of what makes us human is exacerbated when women start to fall pregnant and then give birth to objects rather than babies. I adore the setting and I love that Schwehn left the how unexplained. I am not interested in the mechanics of apocalypse but rather in the human condition as influenced by it. But, and this is my main problem with this book, the characters were not all that well explored.

The story is told in first person perspective by Mira who was 18 when the Rending (this is what her group of people started calling the apocalyptic event) happened and she lost her whole family. She is supposedly plagued by the guilt of losing her brother but this never really felt the case as she kept forgetting him the moment something happened. Her relationship with Lana and Rodney is at the core of this book, especially her friendship with the former. But again we are told of her friendship rather than it being shown. This lack of an emotional core made it difficult for me to connect with her. Parts of this is very much on purpose I am sure: Mira is blunted by the Rending, this new world does not offer anything in way of comfort and as such this could have worked brilliantly if it had been explored more. As it is, I cannot help but wonder if I would have liked the book better had the protagonist been older. Now her narration felt superficial and left me feeling at a distance.

The timeless manner in which the story is told (I was unsure for a while when the Rending had occured and had just settled on the nineties when Mira starts talking about smart phones) worked both for and against my enjoyment of the story. I liked how it underscored the parable-like story and how it made the story both personal and universal. But at the same time it further led to the protagonist being ill-defined. Her pop culture references were dated without there being an in-story reason for that.

So overall, I loved the worldbuilding and the premise and the language of parable, while the characters and their relationships did not quite work for me.

I received an arc of this book courtesy of NetGalley and Bloomsbury Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

You can find this review and other thoughts on books my blog
Profile Image for 8stitches 9lives.
2,854 reviews1,644 followers
June 3, 2018
I am a sucker for post-apocalyptic novels and THE RENDING AND THE NEST is a good one. One welcome surprise is that it is free of all of those pesky tropes that this genre seems to peddle fairly often! It is also so much more than just a chilling dystopian story, it looks at deeper topics such as motherhood and faith, and asks the questions - How well do we know the people we love? What sustains us in the midst of suffering? How do we forgive the brokenness we find within others--and within ourselves?

The world is an intriguingly bizarre one but the worldbuilding is done excellently. Schwehn clearly has a vivid imagination, women giving birth to inanimate objects is a new one on me! This is a very character driven novel and the author is adept at maintaining their development. I was rather shocked about two things - one, that this is a debut and secondly, that I cared so much for the characters and what became of them. It is entertaining throughout and you race to the end in order to find out what happens, and more importantly, what it all means.

There are a couple of issues that I can't overlook, unfortunately. Although the overall premise is amazing, I did feel that there was a lack of information surrounding some of the story, I am someone who likes a bit of background, background that was lacking in a few places here. I did also question whether it was getting too weird for me but then decided that there was no such thing as too weird! I was thinking about this book for a long time after I had finished so perhaps the creepy, bizarre elements were a stroke of genius! After all, the mark of a good book is if you remember it, I know I will remember this one!

I feel my time was invested well reading this title and I look forward to reading further publications from Schwehn in the future. Certainly an author to watch!

I would like to thank Kaethe Schwehn, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & ANZ) and NetGalley for the opportunity to read an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Kat.
Author 9 books405 followers
August 31, 2018
Thank you to Bloomsbury and NetGalley for allowing me to read and review this new title by Kaethe Schwehn. The author has a unique premise in place for her world-building, which very much intrigued me... One day, 95% of the world's population simply vanishes. Random objects disappear off store shelves and from houses, also with no explanation offered. Clouds obscure the sky and there is no longer sun. No one can explain why. The survivors band together and live in scrabbled together shelters, scavenging in trash heaps for survival.

And then the story gets even more intriguing. After a time, some of the women become pregnant, but instead of giving birth to babies, they give birth to inanimate objects like vases and chopsticks. It's definitely a unique premise!
Profile Image for Olivia.
724 reviews120 followers
February 20, 2018
3.5 Stars.

I've read this book a week ago and I am still thinking about it. What a read! Throughout, I kept wondering: do I like this? Is this too weird? Is this brilliant? Or not?

I still haven't found an answer to most of these questions. What I can say is, I did enjoy the read and I read it in one sitting. The pacing is great (if you enjoy character driven stories), the world engrossing, and the characters are well developed.

I really connected with the main character, and Mira is the main reason this book kept my attention. I enjoyed reading about her experiences and her life in this weird new world.

But...the story is just so bizarre and absurd. Women give birth to inanimate objects, like vases, dolls and decorative birds. Kaethe Schwehn writes a lot of poetry, and I feel like this book is more a metaphor than a coherent story. The writing itself is also very poetic, which I liked but might put a few people off.

The plot takes a while to get going. The antagonist does not show up until almost halfway through the story, which might ruin the pacing for readers who don't enjoy the main character as much, and ultimately I do think it was a tad too weird for me.

There is no explanation given to the reader about the state of the world. Why has everyone disappeared? Where did they go? But that is okay, at no point did I feel like we're missing out by not getting an explanation or that an explanation would make the book better.

If you liked Station Eleven, enjoy slow burns, and find the premise of The Rending and the Nest interesting, give it a shot.
Profile Image for Mel (Epic Reading).
917 reviews283 followers
March 2, 2018
DNF 38%

Well the description of The Rending and the Nest makes it obvious it's a weird dystopian world. And yet it isn't the inanimate objects being 'born' instead of live babies that's the weirdest.

Weird, weird, weird
Instead the most bizarre and frustrating thing is that the world has changed in a way that makes absolutely no sense. I don't need a scientific approach, just a moderately believable one. It can have future technology in it to account for capabilities we don't have; but, it still needs to be something that feels like it makes sense in some sort of context. The set-up to this dystopian place feels like author Kaethe Schwehn just wanted a certain setting and so magically just had it happen in a 'Rending' moment. This really bugged me as it's core to the story and the mystery to be solved.

While the writing is acceptable the descriptions and characterizations of the lead gal and others in the book are a bit flat. I didn't really connect with our main gal or her fellow group members. They all seemed a bit boring. More details of the 'before' lives might have helped or maybe more around the basic services and jobs each had in the group. It's touched upon for a few of our characters but I never really felt like I had a working understanding of their setting and therefore didn't know the characters.

Necessities of Existence
I went back and skimmed the first 20% of this book, before stopping entirely, to try and find a solid description for the main food source called ghost fruit. I never found one. When readers don't understand how energy is gained and consumed, in any story of any kind, then they fundamentally cannot connect or concentrate on a story. Instead we tend to get caught up in trying to decide how something is happening rather than what is happening. You can have a mysterious food or resource but make sure every detail the characters know is what your reader knows too.

Why do we need certain base elements?
The fundamentals of life must be present or at least touched upon and explained in order to allow us to relate to the characters. Be they characters that are AI, biological, corporeal or otherwise. The main fundamentals of life are: sustenance (how to get energy and maintain existence), waste (where does 'garbage' of any kind go) and shelter (it can move with you or constantly change but you generally have some shelter from elements at points during a period of time). Had Schwehn helped us understand the living situation better I think the mysteries would have intrigued me. Instead they really annoyed me as they just added to the nothing makes sense aura of this book.

There might be something here if a rewrite was to happen as the style of writing is okay but it's the content that bugs me. Overall the first 38% of this book (that I read) reminded me of one of my first DNF's a couple decades ago. Tad Williams series Otherworld had many of the same relational problems. Going too far into the strange and weird (which I normally love) without being smart about it. The thing I always remember that had me give up on Otherworld was when salad veggies were fighting utensils in a kitchen for dominance (I'm not even kidding) and the baby tomato drowns in the river after a utensil skewers him. Generally one would be devastated by a baby of any kind dying. Instead all I could do was laugh and say nope, putting the book down to never ever pick it up again. It's not that a conscious tomato was the problem it's the context in which it was portrayed. As though it was there to confuse you and nothing more. I am not a fan of these blatant, lazy illustrations of oddities. Read Alice in Wonderland if you want to see how odd, bizarre and crazy can be done really well. The key in Alice is Lewis Carrol sets up a relatable construct for each character be it a card guard, door mouse or Mad Hatter.

Finally, when I gave-up reading The Rending and the Nest I honestly didn't care about anything at all. There was no sense of a purpose or that I was reading anything more than a disjointed made up story with no message, purpose, morale or otherwise. While many authors believe they write for themselves the reality is the best books are written for the readers.

For this and more of my reviews please visit my blog at: Epic Reading

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.
Profile Image for Anjali Sachdeva.
Author 12 books328 followers
February 20, 2018
I have read a mountain of dystopian future books. This one stands completely apart from all of them. It's beautifully written, thoughtful, sometimes funny and sometimes a punch in the gut. The book probes both the best and worst aspects of human nature, asking how we all would change if the people we love most suddenly disappeared-- a question I ended up asking myself many times as I read. The world-building is also impressive. Schwehn manages to make a bizarre future filled with perpetually overcast skies, orchards full of ghost fruit, and massive piles of cast-off objects from the world before the apocalypse feel utterly real, a place you might wake up and find yourself in tomorrow. At the same time, she recasts familiar objects and places in way that forces you to reconsider what they mean to you; I don't think I'll ever look at a zoo or a Barnes and Noble the same way again after reading this. Above all, the story is constantly surprising and inventive-no post-apocalyptic cliches here-and the last hundred pages in particular provide a cycle of nonstop tension and revelation. Gorgeous and troubling in the best possible way; you'll be thinking about this one long after you finish it.
Profile Image for Blair.
1,794 reviews4,435 followers
May 13, 2018
This is an unusual post-apocalyptic novel, not quite a dystopia – in fact, some might consider its premise utopian. It depicts society a few years after an unexplained event known as the Rending, which caused most of the world's population (and a good chunk of its animals, food and technology) to vanish in an instant. The narrator, Mira, is in a shopping mall when the Rending happens, and it's with a group of other shoppers and workers she stays, not very far away from the mall itself, in a makeshift community named Zion. Aside from the loss of so many people and things, the Rending doesn't seem to have changed the world an awful lot, but one effect is the appearance of huge heaps of debris. From these, the survivors scavenge useful tools and objects with nostalgic value. Another post-Rending development is the discovery of new plants such as the 'ghost fruit', a plentiful but small and bitter food source.

If you're thinking of reading this book, you'll probably be able to tell whether you'll like it from the first chapter, which encapsulates most of what makes it both appealing and offputting. In the first scene, Mira is scavenging with Lana, who's just discovered she's pregnant. No babies have been born in Zion in the three years since the Rending; Lana's pregnancy is the first. There are shades of resentment to Mira's narration; she's obviously a little jealous of Lana, and it's also clear she has long-standing, unexpressed feelings for Rodney, another Zion resident. Schwehn writes with a very dark quirkiness (Mira recounts a horrible memory about strangers taunting her with a dead cat at a party) but makes her characters instantly intriguing. There was no doubt I wanted to read on.

If it wasn't for the fact that this development is mentioned in the blurb, I might feel like I was giving too much away by revealing that Lana, swiftly followed by other women in Zion, ends up giving birth to an inanimate object. These 'Babies', how the women cope with them, and what all this means for Zion quickly become the driving questions of the plot. Mira is an interesting character to take us on this journey because she's imperfect – immature, hesitant, occasionally petulant – but I never stopped being fascinated by her and I never doubted her commitment to Lana. Given that so much of the story revolves around pregnancy and motherhood (of a type) it's quite amazing that The Rending and the Nest manages to avoid becoming one of those tiresome 'feminist' dystopias, but it does so while making the reader root for the characters' quest, despite bizarre circumstances. I still can't believe quite how much Schwehn managed to make me feel about a bunch of things.

The premise is not without problems. It's difficult to fathom the logistics of a pregnancy that would result in a woman giving birth to some of the objects depicted here. It bothered me that people living in entirely separate communities seemed to somehow have developed the same quirks of language: using the term 'the Rending', giving amusingly human names to the piles of junk, and so on. I wondered why the survivors had all decided to stay together, in the place they'd been when the disaster happened, rather than pursuing what would surely be the natural inclination to return to their homes and attempt to seek out surviving friends and family. But you could probably pick similar holes in any story of this type.

I can understand why The Rending and the Nest has been compared to Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven. It's not just that both are set in a destroyed world with a hugely depleted population; it's the way the stories concentrate primarily on people, their emotional stories, their relationships. It's the way they make you care deeply about what's happening no matter how strange it is. And while the plot may have flaws, it also has so many strengths: the expertly handled tension; Mira's character arc; a neat, brilliantly effective climax.

I received an advance review copy of The Rending and the Nest from the publisher through NetGalley.

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Profile Image for Nadine.
1,184 reviews223 followers
January 6, 2018
The Rending and the Nest has a very intriguing premise. A post-apocalyptic world with a mystery sprinkled with themes of motherhood, survival, and community. Unfortunately, the pacing, writing, and characters were dull.

The Rending and the Nest is a very slow paced book. Schwehn take hers time building the world and main character, Mira. I loved getting intimate details about the world post Rending and Mira as a character, but it took Schwehn almost half the book to accomplish. The synopsis above explains that a man named Michael will arrive thereby creating some plot movement. However, he doesn’t arrive until 41% through the novel. Despite the slow start, I didn’t feel like DNF’ing it. The world and pregnancies were too interesting and shrouded in mystery to put down.

The writing felt overly poetic. It read as if Schwehn was trying her absolute hardest to write as sophisticatedly as possible. The metaphors and similes were jarring and pulled me out of the story rather than flowing smoothly.

I really enjoyed Mira and her best friend, Lana. I was able to connect with them almost immediately. However, the other characters weren’t as well developed or relied on one particular trait to describe them and the way they behaved.

What peaked my interest in this novel the most was The Rending itself. Where did 95% of the population disappeared to? Why did they disappear? Was it random? Were people targeted specifically? None of these questions are answered. There aren’t even hints of an answer within the text. The build up of the mystery of The Rending throughout the novel created suspense and intrigue, but by the end of the novel I was incredibly frustrated with the lack of answers.

Overall, The Rending and the Nest is not for everyone and, apparently, I am not one of those people. It is a unique post-apocalyptic story because of its focus on motherhood, community, and loss, however the story failed to perform after it had caught my attention.

***I received an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Janelle Janson.
711 reviews449 followers
August 17, 2018
Thank you so much to Bloomsbury Publishing for providing my free copy of THE RENDING AND THE NEST by Kaethe Schwehn - all opinions are my own.

This is one of the most bizarre and intelligent books I’ve ever read. It’s introspective, philosophical, evocative, and poetic. Without any explanation, 95 percent of the world’s population has disappeared in an event called the Rending. The remaining population have no idea why the Rending occurred but decide to trudge on and try to add to their existence. We follow our protagonist Mira as she makes her way through this gloomy, post-apocalyptic world. The sky is an everlasting gray and the atmosphere is always a steady, chilly temperature. Mira’s job is to climb the Piles, which are mountains of junk, in order to find useful items for their makeshift community of Zion. In the past three years, no babies have been born, but suddenly Mira’s friend Lana discovers she is pregnant. Lana gives birth to an inanimate object and other women of Zion start to experience the same phenomenon. So you can see why I used the word bizarre.

The main themes of THE RENDING AND THE NEST are motherhood, survival, and loss. This is a very character-driven story which reminded me a bit of Station Eleven, and just like Station Eleven it focuses on the character’s journey, emotions, and relationships. I enjoyed reading about Mira and Lana’s characters a great deal and about another intriguing character introduced later on. The storyline is inventive, interesting, horrifying, and thought-provoking with an eerily realistic, strange future world. But be prepared, as this book moves rather slowly and is heavy on the details. Also, you may want answers to questions you won’t get but I promise this story will stay with you. Ultimately though, Schwehn’s writing is next level brilliant with beautiful, lyrical prose and whether you love it or hate it, I guarantee you’ve never read a book like this.
Profile Image for Ova - Excuse My Reading.
480 reviews364 followers
March 14, 2018
I requested this book in NetGalley after reading it's for likes of Emily St john Mandel's Station Eleven. First of all, I must say the only similarity between this book and Station Eleven is 95% of world's population disappearing. Nothing else. The writing, the structure, the style is completely different. There is no explanation or hint of why people vanished. We just accept then and move on with the story.

The first thing I disliked in this book is that there is almost no introduction. It starts immediately, it was like trying to hold a hot pot with no handles, full of food. I found no handles to engage me with the story and pushed myself to continue reading. The other reviewers are saying there is much philosophy, thought provoking elements but probably later in the book but I didn't finish this after 30%.

I think there is a promising idea here but I wish it was implemented a bit more sophisticated.

Thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury for an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Christine Roberts.
279 reviews37 followers
January 20, 2018
In an interesting but odd twist on the dystopian genre, Kaethe Schwehn narrates the end of the world from the point of view of a young woman. After the Rending, in which not just people but animals, things, and sunshine have disappeared, Mira and her friends found a community known as Zion. After a surprising turn regarding pregnancy and birth, Zion is visited by Michael, a creepy cult type leader of a place called the Zoo. As the novel reaches it's apex, and the confrontation between Mira and the Zionists and Michael comes to a head, the author fails to engage the reader in caring. The characters were too one dimensional for me to actually want Mira and the Zionists to come out okay.
While the premise is interesting, and the writing clear, the book just fails to grab the reader, to create that sense of concern that is necessary in dystopian novels with this type of conflict.

Thanks to NetGalley, Kaethe Schewehn, and Bloomsbury for an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for The Captain.
1,096 reviews408 followers
February 20, 2018
Ahoy there me mateys! I received this sci-fi eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. So here be me honest musings . . .

This is truly wonderfully delightfully oddly bizarre. It is a post-apocalyptic book wherein 95% of the population disappears with no explanation. This becomes known as the Rending. Along with people, portions of buildings and other items simply disappear as well. Thousands of random objects are mixed together in towering Piles that dot the landscape.

In this new world, we are introduced to (and follow) Mira as she and fellow survivors try to make a new life in a settlement called Zion. The novel deals with the current day to day living and then switches into snippets of the past. The main issue appears when the first pregnancy of Zion post-Rending is announced. The settlement is fraught with excitement over the prospect of a new baby. Imagine the surprise when the new baby turns out to be an inanimate object.

So what does this mean? Read the novel and find out. Just be prepared that this is a slow burn, heavily detailed story. I found it fascinating, horrifying, and lyrical all at once. I am very glad I read it and have been thinking about it ever since I finished. It is certainly not a book for everyone, but it was perfect for me.

So lastly . . .

Thank you Bloomsbury USA!

Check out me other reviews at https://thecaptainsquartersblog.wordp...
Profile Image for Bandit.
4,607 reviews466 followers
November 26, 2017
Dystopian fiction is generally hugely appealing to me. And this was one conceptually fascinating, a world rendered incomplete and strange through rapture like event, now with most of the population gone, weather changed and most of the material possessions ranged into giant Piles. In this world a small group of survivors banded together into a make shift community supported by scavenging and various other means. If life in this new bleak environment wasn’t difficult enough, there’s also the fact that all the pregnancies now resolve in immaterial objects for babies. And if that wasn’t challenging enough, there’s also now a threat from another, considerably more depraved community. While all this may sound good (if somewhat odd) on paper, the execution left something to be desired. The author’s previous works comprise a memoir and a book of poems and this novel reads very much like a logical follow up to that, a certain dreamy surreal metaphorical allegorical estrogeny quality to it all. We don’t get to find out much about The Rending, seems like the event was used merely to frame the soul searching expositions of all the female leads of the book, particularly the protagonist. The latter is very young, rendered as a teen and now barely in her 20s, and maybe due to that, for the longest time the book seems like a YA novel to me, albeit of a more sophisticated variety. At the very least, there was a very young perspective from which this new post apocalyptic world was presented. Of course, there are some terrific stories about and/or from a kid or young adult perspective, there are ways to make that sort of narrative exciting and compelling for an adult, just looks at the success of Stranger Things, but this wasn’t one of those. Not for me, anyway, this is a personal take, of course, but inability to engage with the characters doesn’t usually lead to a very enjoyable read. Then again it wasn’t that unenjoyable either, it had lots of potential, some good writing, some very imaginative plot devices and imagery and it was original, certainly. I think objectively it’s quite possible that this was a good book that didn’t quite connect with me personally, but would be a great one to readers who would be able to establish that connection. It read like a peculiar dream. And relatively quickly too. Thanks Netgalley.
Profile Image for Jae Mod.
1,716 reviews233 followers
January 30, 2018
***ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review***

Kaethe Schwehn’s The Rending and the Nest was a riveting and unique take on the dystopian genre. I am not sure I can compare it to any other book of this style, as it takes an unusual twist on the After.

Mira is left behind when 95% of the population disappears without a trace for no apparent reason. Suddenly life is split between Before and After the Rending. In an attempt to create some normalcy, she teams up with the few others who remain around her as they search for a location they can survive in and create a new life. Just when they think Zion, their new community, has settled into a routine, her friend Lana becomes pregnant.

Lana, a ballet dancer in her life Before, is the first to become pregnant since the Rending. What comes of the pregnancy and what is to follow, turns what had become a harmonious existence, into one of confusion, turmoil and conflict. The everyday life they had come to relish is flipped upside down and the inhabitants of Zion need to make some difficult decisions in the face of threats and danger. How will their community cope with unexpected babies, unwelcome guests and threats to their community and way of life?

I really connected with Mira. She was strong, fearless and a wonderful leader. Her character was beautifully developed and made it easy to relate to her, based on who she was Before and who she had become After. Along the way we met many other characters, from friends to foes. They were all unusual and unique in their own ways. Schwehn did a great job building visuals of the many quirky, threatening and colorful personalities they encounter.

This book put such a unique spin on the dystopian novel. Unlike any I have read, it is difficult to categorize in any one way. I would not qualify this as a fast moving page turner, rather it was more thought provoking and poetic. It challenged thoughts on faith, family, friends and motherhood, and yet there were also parts that were so creative and extraordinary that those who prefer science fiction or fantasy will find themselves intrigued.

I give this one of a kind read a 4 star review.
5 reviews
September 30, 2019
Very creative, this book is in the genre of speculative fiction which often can be
wary about the future. This book is on the edge of tragic yet ends with hope and
kindness. It focuses on a community in Minnesota which starts life rather lacking in
bonding among its members and ends with the beginnings of new life and the hope of
a true, caring community. The author doesn't explain everything that happens so
one could wish for a sequel. Yet what the book does give to me, the reader, is a sense
of contentment.
Profile Image for Nicole Jarvis.
Author 3 books156 followers
October 20, 2017
I couldn't put this book down! The dystopian world was fascinating, but it was the characters that kept me hooked. As someone with no maternal instincts, I was amazed by how much this book made me ache for the various mothers featured. The themes of humanity, miscarriage, friendship, love, and fate were all fantastically realized in this landscape of this mysterious dystopia. Highly recommended!

Disclaimer: I work for the publisher, but this review is my own opinion.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
1,114 reviews30 followers
September 12, 2018
How bizarre.

This book is very strange and not just because women in a post-apocalyptic world are suddenly giving birth to inanimate objects. I found the story to be very strange in the way it is written. I found it to be very vague without much of a plot and little character development. It's interesting enough that I kept reading and reading, waiting for something to happen, but about halfway through I realized there's just not much going on here and why are the characters doing what they're doing and it was all just a little confusing to me.

Certainly there is a lot of allegory here and the story is almost a parable of sorts, but while noting these things I also felt somewhat obtuse because I wasn't understanding a lot of what the author was getting at with these representations. Maybe she was just trying to do too much with a flimsy narrative, or maybe it was just too deep for me. Clearly I didn't connect well with the story. Overall, meh.

I've seen this book compared to Station Eleven and California (Edan Lepucki wrote a blub for the cover) and nope. I don't see this. Other than they're all kind of deeper, or more philosophical post-apocalyptic fiction, I suppose. It's been years since I've read it, but I feel like The Rending and the Nest actually reminds me more of Oryx and Crake, but I could be misremembering.
Profile Image for Syd (deertales).
326 reviews27 followers
March 1, 2018
the rending and the nest is solidly the most bizarre book i have ever read. my feelings are so conflicted because while i personally didn't like the story, i can't really specify any good reasons why that aren't simply my personal preferences.

the setting was so interesting, but was purposefully vague. as a reader, you never get to learn the circumstances that brought about the disappearance of 95% of the population in a single second. we never learn why only a select few women get pregnant. we don't learn about the piles, or the ghost fruit, or the reason for the lack of sun, or the selection process for the people who got to remain in this new world. and as a curious individual, this really frustrated me. i wanted to get to the root of why, but i understood the literay purpose of having all the 'whys' be a mystery.

i liked the writing but i didn't love it. i liked the messages and themes, but i still dont know if i am grasping them to the full potential that they were meant to be grasped. honestly, i just feel wholly ambivalent to the entire experience, with the exception of a few passages that will haunt me for a while.

go into this one blind. that's my final opinion.
Profile Image for Jenny Dunning.
315 reviews9 followers
July 26, 2018
My favorite kind of book--each sentence unfolds like a poem, while the characters and story draw me ineluctably forward. Schwehn's post-apocalyptic world is weirdly wonderful; unexpected details present themselves at every turn.

The novel also satisfies at the theme level. Something entirely incomprehensible has occurred, what the characters call the Rending, in which 95% of the world's population and much of their "stuff" has disappeared suddenly. Gradually, the reader realizes that for all the physical needs the characters must meet for survival, the fundamental challenge is to construct a narrative that allows them to move forward in the new world they've found themselves in. Schwehn handles this with delicacy and wisdom, in the process helping us see more clearly how our narratives shape our own lives. For Schwehn, who spent several years at Holden Village, a Lutheran retreat in the North Cascades, and is married to a Lutheran minister, this means the Christian narrative. But she contextualizes that narrative. As her narrator, Mira, says, "In the end, looking closely, without judgement or expectation, is one of the things we can control, and it is the one act that reveals the heart of the world, regardless of whether that world is imbued with divinity or not."
Profile Image for Bettina.
68 reviews129 followers
January 23, 2019
The Rending and the Nest is nothing like any dystopia I read before and completely surprised me. Initially though, I was put off by the writing since it is very lyrical and therefore (not being a native English speaker) it took me longer to process the sentences. But after the first chapter, I started to enjoy the slower paced reading and really appreciated Schwehn's beautiful, clever and metaphorical style.

The other thing I loved about this book is how open for interpretation it is. You're not told why the apocalypse happend it that - to be honest pretty strange - way. You're not being lectured explicitly about our modern way of living. It's left to the reader to draw their conclusions which I don't find easily in a lot of novels.

Can't wait to read more from this author!
Profile Image for Blaine.
782 reviews658 followers
January 24, 2018
I received an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I requested this book because I am a sucker for post-apocalypse fiction and the self-comparisons to Station Eleven, which I absolutely loved. But this book did not really work for me. An apocalypse happens and none of the survivors know why. It’s a great premise, and it sets the table nicely for one of the book’s main themes: no one ever knows the whole story, so the only thing you get to decide is the story you’re going to tell yourself about what’s happened.

Unfortunately, there’s just not much story here. Not a lot happens over the course of the book. The antagonist does not appear until almost halfway through. The writing is nice, and occasionally lovely (“[I] knew that a prayer was exposing the soft belly of fear to light”). But the plot drags in several places, and the author resorts to telling rather than showing too often.
Profile Image for Anne.
5 reviews
March 22, 2018
This is NOT just another work of post-apocalyptic fiction. Often, such novels focus on the question, "Why did this happen?" There is some of that here, too, as characters struggle to make peace with loss and recognize the truths in their new reality; the beauty of this novel, however, unfolds as its characters move past their pain into acceptance.

Schwehn's writing deftly balances profundity with absurdity. Little moments of this book will stay with me for a long time, and I've learned things I didn't know I needed to know (for example: the purpose of the little bitty side pocket in five-pocket jeans). And I will continue to learn about myself through my experiences reading this novel as I mull over its questions and lessons, especially the one most present as I write this: What would my Baby look like?
Profile Image for SnoopyDoo's Book Reviews .
583 reviews329 followers
July 18, 2018

1 ½ ★

Sadly this book was a DNF, I don’t like to DNF books and I rarely do it but I just couldn’t connect with this book.

I like to say that the writing is what put me off, and that I’m sure many people will enjoy this book and its writing style. It just was not for me.

For one it seemed a bit too much philosophy for me. Yes, I like when I book makes you think and maybe see a bigger pictures but as far as I read this book was too much of it, almost was like fill in the blanks feeling for me. It started out with the world building or the lack of it, in this case. We are just thrown into the story with very little info about the world or prior events. We don’t know why 95% of humanity disappeared or what lead up to it. It’s just a fact no explanation or anything and we just supposed to take it. While sometimes that can make a book, it defiantly didn’t in this case, at least not for me. It just made me feel lost and disconnected to the book. That also goes for the characters. I had a hard time to connect to any of them and it just felt sort flat to me.

Another issue I had was that it seemed incredible slow to me , I only made it to page 116 but it felt like I read 300 some pages. But to be honest it could have been just the fact that I was not a huge fan of the book.

While this book was not for me, I still think plenty if people would enjoy it and appreciate the writing style much more than I did.

I rate it 1 ½ ★ for the 116 pages that I have read if the book.

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Profile Image for Marzie.
1,135 reviews92 followers
February 20, 2018
3.5 Stars

This was an interesting, well-written book with an unusual post-apocalyptic, dystopian plot. Following a mysterious apocalyptic event termed The Rending, in a world with a vastly reduced population, Mira, the central character, lives in a community called Zion. Her days are spent sorting through the Piles, quite literally piles of debris left by The Rending, finding objects that might be put to use. Her friend Lana sometimes accompanies her but is primarily working as a prostitute in the community. Lana, and then ultimately the other fertile women of Zion, become pregnant and mysteriously give birth to objects. An interloper in the community, Michael, wields a cult-leader-like power and destabilizes the bonds between members of the community including Mira and Lana. Mira builds nests for the Babies. The original central members of Mira's group push back against Michael.

The plot setup is well executed but I found myself puzzling over the underlying premise. The Rending itself is never really explained. It wasn't a Rapture event (I was worried about that prospect from some elements of Mira's family life) and it wasn't a comet hitting the earth. It isn't a zombie apocalypse story, although I felt that there were similarities to the communities seen in stories like The Walking Dead with abusive or cultish leaders. Are those who survived just lucky? Are they the cursed few? The enigmatic nature of the story left me wanting a reader's guide or an explanation from the author about what she was going for here. I felt a bit deflated by the ending in which I felt had no greater insight than I had at the start.

Schwehn is a polished writer with an interesting premise. I just wish she'd given us more insight into The Rending and its survivors' purpose.

I received a Digital Review Copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Samantha Zee.
559 reviews15 followers
February 11, 2019
This book was really weird and even if I had reread the blurb before picking this one up (I tend to add books to my TBR and get to them months later, forgetting what they were supposed to be about), I don't think it would've helped. We follow a group of people who try to build a community after the "Rending" happens, where the majority of the world's people just disappear. Piles of junk appear and people scavenge for parts for survival while trying to rebuild society and deal with the fact that while there is no longer any diseases, there's also no new births. But then people start getting pregnant!

It's based in MN, so I appreciated being able to recognize a lot of the highways and what not, but a lot of questions are left unanswered. Plus there are a lot of characters being named dropped all the time, but minus a few, the majority fade to the background. Even the main characters aren't really likable. They aren't unlikable either, but really, you just don't care about them.

The pacing in this book can use work too. The front half is really slow, but not just because Schwehn is trying to world build and explain a bit. The last 100 pages pick up slightly, but the ending isn't really satisfying and left open so if you aren't into those endings, this book becomes even more frustrating.

2.5 stars, rounded up because it is better than 2 stars, but I wouldn't bother.
Profile Image for Therin Knite.
Author 11 books163 followers
February 8, 2018
While the premise of this book was extremely interesting, I found the execution a bit too esoteric for my tastes. I was hoping for something more like Station Eleven, but this went far beyond that in terms of literary focus.

There were many parts of this story I liked, however, including the descriptions of the setting, like the large stacks of random objects, and the concept that a large portion of objects disappeared, leaving sparse supplies. Some of the characters were quite interesting as well, although I found the main character a bit bland. Overall, the plot was the weakest element of the book for me. I found it quite slow and plodding at times.

I give this three stars for an excellent premise with a somewhat less than satisfying execution.

[NOTE: I received an ARC of this title from the publisher via NetGalley.]
Profile Image for Erica.
423 reviews3 followers
March 20, 2018
3.5 stars. About 1/3 of the way through I wanted to stop reading it - I got what the world was but not much was happening - but then I got really caught up in this very strange dystopia. One day most of the people and a lot of the stuff in the world disappears. The remaining stuff is deposited in giant piles. The survivors in this story started out in the Mall of America. The weather is a constant gray 60-ish and the ground periodically saturates with water, sustaining root crops but not much else. There are some new fruits growing. No explanation for what happened. The characters wonder too. Is this about materialism? Attachment to objects? Maybe. Women start giving birth to inanimate objects (like chopsticks or a vase.) The characters grew on me and I thought the writing was really excellent.
2,454 reviews
May 18, 2022
After the Rending results in 95% of humanity disappearing, Mira and her companions come together to make a community.

What a bizarre version of an apocalypse! I love that this is different than anything else I've read and I've read a ton of these books. The Rending is not even the weirdest thing that happens because women start giving birth to inanimate objects such as plastic birds. Be aware that this is a 'drop you in the deep end' type of book. The author is not going to slowly build up to explanations or provide the logistics of how and why things happen. It's a bit of a sink or swim and I really enjoyed it. It's like a slow drive along a beautiful road but instead of 'over here there's a winding stream' we have 'over here's some weird shit'. If you want that experience, definitely try this book.
Profile Image for Alex.
720 reviews32 followers
May 8, 2018
An interesting post-apocalyptic novel that possibly doesn't go deep enough. It has a lot of good ideas for a society so suddenly broken, but it doesn't expand on many of them, and takes some of its more outré concepts entirely for granted. Not exactly fun, but some arresting images and a good climax help The Rending and the Nest along without ever really placing it in the post-apocalyptic pantheon.
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