Z For Zachariah by Robert C. O’Brien

“Hi, next reader. I tell U right now Faro dies :-(” Inscribed in blue ball point pen at the start of chapter 23 in Solano County Library’s copy of Z for Zachariah.)

So maybe not a book for everyone, I guess, since the dog does die.

Z for Zachariah was Robert O’Brien’s last book. Left unfinished at the time of his death, it was completed, based on notes he left, by his wife and one of his daughters. Robert O’Brien is the author of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, my favorite book from fifth grade.

Z for Zachariah tells the story of Ann Burden who has survived the ravages of nuclear war and its aftermath by running her families farm in an isolated and protected valley. She believes she is the last person on earth until a man wearing a protective suit arrives. But can she trust him?

Z for Zachariah is a simple thriller. The plot is uncomplicated in spite of its exotic setting. The characterization is strong throughout and the writing is solid. I found myself easily lost in the story. The details of Ann’s preparation for the man’s arrival are strikingly interesting as  are the steps she goes through to survive what follows. I found the book very hard to put down. Robert O’Brien is able to build suspense throughout the story. Soon after one problem is solved, hints of another appear. The tension builds throughout. By the end of the story I really wanted to shout at Ann to encourage her to do what I knew she had to do to survive. What she does in the end is not what I wanted to her to do, which made the ending haunting rather than completely satisfying.


Since running this review on my old blog, Ready When You Are, C.B. I have forgotten what it was Ann did in the end of the book.  So I guess is wasn’t that haunting.  I over-used the term ‘haunting’ in the early days.  What I have always remembered though, is the little note written at the start of chapter 23.   I know that most book lovers deplore marginalia, but I’ve always loved it, even when it’s in the shallow end of the pool. That little note is a communication from one reader to another, maybe even a communication across generations, since it was a fairly old library copy.  It says so much about the person who read this book, too.  

One side note.

I picked up this book because the narrator of Black Swan Green read it and said it was excellent. I always like it when I can follow a string of embedded book recommendations.