About the Author

Mark S. Johnson, a health and science reporter for The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, shared the 2011 PulitzerPrize for Explanatory Reporting. He has been a Pulitzer finalist on three other occasions.

His reporting has been anthologized in three editions of The Best American Newspaper Narratives.

Before moving to Milwaukee, Johnson was a reporter atThe Providence (R.I.) Journal-Bulletin, The Rockford (Il) Register Star, The Haverhill (Mass.) Gazette, and weekly Provincetown (Mass.) Advocate.

He is a graduate of The University of Toronto. This is his first novel.

He and his wife, the writer and editor Mary-Liz Shaw, rode out the pandemic with their son, composer Evan Johnson, and his partner, Socks Whitmore, at their home in Fox Point, Wisconsin.


Mark Johnson tells a timeless tale of the struggle to find truth in belief, faith in fact, and friendship in times of fear. It is a new survival story, one that takes place post-climate apocalypse where our main character, Elon, thirty-seven, alone, hungry, and desperate to hear just another voice, is determined to discover what is next fora world sunken and on fire. When Elon discovers a hidden retreat deep in the woods of Northern Michigan, he soon finds himself on the verge of regeneration, as a pack of loners band together amidst a society turned hostile and an environment turned violent. No longer must he travel alone with his shopping cart, his jug of gasoline, and rotten crabapples. Now, he has the chance to rediscover friendship and intimacy.

Johnson’s novel asks the question—what would it take to start over?—and readers walk away from Elon’s story pondering their own responsibility to the climate-challenged world outside their own front yards. The chapters read like campfire tales, and Johnson’s lyrical voice heightens Elon’s perceptions of shame, guilt, and accountability. The setting of this treacherous world creates an intriguing backdrop as each night the new residents of the Kenneally Retreat Center slowly reveal stories from their lives before. These stories are admissions of guilt, secrets, failures, and grief, and they challenge our ability to forgive. Johnson uses the art of story-telling to critique the categorizing nature of the American identity.

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