Read the first novel by this local journalist

Although the earth gives way, a new novel by Mark Johnson, opens with a man waking up. Overwhelmed with sleep, he assesses his surroundings. “A dusty orange haze hung over the landscape, just as it was. Parched soil. Leafless sugar maples. Small clumps of meadow grass. Blurs of impressionistic color in land turned brown.

The man, Elon, is 37, single, a former radio host wandering across the burnt-out United States. A climate catastrophe has left the West Coast a burning wasteland, the East Coast underwater, and our beloved Midwest a half-abandoned wasteland for wandering survivors.

Photo courtesy of Bancroft Press

“I was worried about climate change before I started the book,” Johnson said in an interview with his editor. “I felt a lot of guilt. I have a wonderful son, a talented music composer. I feel like we failed his generation. As I worked more on the book, I I started hoping that maybe the right book, the right set of characters, might help us focus better on the problem.

Johnson is a health and science reporter for the Sentinel Diarywhere he shared the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Explaining Reporting for “One in a Billion,” a series about a young Milwaukee boy with an unknown medical condition, and the doctors at the Children’s and Medical College of Wisconsin exploring remote parts of the genetic technology to try to help him.


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After wandering alone from his home in Rhode Island, Elon finds himself in northern Michigan, where he finds a strange old man living with a group of survivors in an old retirement center. For the first time in years, he unpacks his bag and sets up camp with this new group. The story soon branches out beyond Elon, as the eight people at the camp share their stories of survival around a series of nighttime fires.

Mark Johnson; Photo courtesy of Bancroft Press

“Every night a story,” writes Johnson. “We took turns. No stories about the rising waters or the scorching sun. No stories about the corpses we had seen or the miseries we had endured. Nothing is taken from a book or a movie. Something real. Something to wake us from the trance in which we had traveled those many miles, to remind us of what it meant to be human.

The group bonds by sharing their experiences each night and begins to face the possibility of trying to rebuild some form of civilization together.

Although the earth gives way Included was USA Today’s 20 winter books “we can’t wait to read”. The novel is available now on Amazon and in bookstores.






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