I never imagined I could describe a novel as both hopeful and hopeless at the same time. James Brazielís Snakeskin Road is that kind of a novel, one that instills a seed of hope despite the hopelessness of the main characterís situation.
This is not an easy book to read. Its chilling and emotionally moving story weaves a world devastated by climate change and filled with hardened souls who survive by any means possible. For one young woman named Jennifer, it is about her own survival in a cruel and harsh new world, as well as that of her unborn child, as she attempts to escape the inhospitable desert of the South and make her way to her mother in Chicago. The journey is filled with danger at every turn, especially when she is entrusted with a young girl named Mazy whose mother has abandoned her. Jennifer and Mazy find out that they can make it to their destination, with the help of human traffickers, for a price they may not be ready or willing to pay. But they have no choice, for to remain where they are is certain death.
Jenniferís fate culminates in a house of prostitution, where she must stay as an indentured slave of sorts for three years before she can ever hope to make it to the safety of the North. Her horrifying and often despairing story is told in letters she writes to her mother, letters filled with the lowest of emotions yet also a streak of hope that she holds onto even as her life spirals into the darkest of places.
The author began his grim tale with the critically acclaimed Birmingham, 35 Miles, and continues this apocalyptic journey along Snakeskin Road, named for its ever-changing path through violent and deadly landscapes. The crux of the story is told in letter format, adding incredible depth and feeling to a world where no one wants to feel anything anymore.
Snakeskin Road is disturbing in its portrayal of the harshness of human behavior in desperate times. But again, it is Jenniferís hope, that tiny shred of hope, that keeps us reading hungrily in search of a resolution Ė or, at the very least, the end of the road.