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She met him in a bar. Perhaps that should have been a hint.

She noted alcohol and expressed concern early on. How much did he drink? He worked alone at home writing, quite successfully, and usually went out to eat. That was his social circle. He knew every restaurateur in town.

She had different circles, overlapping. The medical circle, the patient circle, the church, music, children and sailboats. It interested her that after 8 years in a small town, she knew virtually no one in the circle he knew and vice versa.

He could polish off a bottle of wine alone easily and not act drunk. That was not a plus in her eyes. Tolerance. But he did 20 mile hikes for fun, running into an occasional bear and cougar. He had a very sensible emergency kit including a GPS and emergency satellite beacon, since he hiked alone. He didn't trust doctors at all, though was happy to date one.

She wondered about his blood pressure. And the state of his liver.

He cut back on the alcohol, was drinking less, though daily.

Her son was all for it. "You don't watch me nearly as closely when you're dating someone, mom!" he said. "Opportunistic brat!" she said.

Her daughter had to be asked. "He smiles but it's not real." she said.

She knew what her daughter meant. His smile didn't reach his eyes for most people. It did for her, but not for her daughter. A social smile, guarded.

She ran into him in town. They had a date at 8 that night. "I'm going to walk to a party first. Call you when I get back," he said. Her brain spiraled a question mark, but she was going back to work. The question tickle sank away.

He called a little after 8. "Don' think I should come over. Don' wan your kids see me like this," he said. "You're drunk," she said. She was angry. "I'm going to come over there for a few minutes."

She left the kids and went over. He was on the porch, reeking of alcohol. It radiated from his skin. "You are bombed." she said. He snorted. She went home.

"Why are you mad?" he said the next day. She hoped his head hurt, but no, no hangover. More negative evidence. "You knew you were going to get bombed." she said. "What?" he said. "You knew it," she said. "You walked to the party so that you wouldn't be driving drunk." "Um," he said, "Well what if I did? Sometimes I'm going to drink like that and it's not very often." "Well," she said, "Why the fuck did you have a date set up with me if you were going to get bombed? You know I hate it." Long silence. "I wanted to have my cake and eat it too?"

"I ain't cake!" she said and hung up.

They made up. He said that occasionally he got plastered, but not very often and he would make sure it wasn't with her around. She was lightly wary. They were both very good at hiding feelings.

He took her to a family wedding. He said that his New Jersey family would be thrilled to have him bring home a doctor. She felt like a duck brought in by a dog, held gently in it's mouth, to the master. The wedding was 3000 miles away. She met his parents and his sister and brother. A cousin was getting married.

He proceeded to get bombed at the wedding. He didn't eat much because he was vegetarian and the vegetarian offering was awful.

She decided to go. He said he'd go too, slurring. She wanted to dance and danced once with his father. Then they got on the bus back to the hotel. In the hotel he ordered a pizza, vegetarian. He tried brushing it off with an amorous approach. She would have none of it.

In the morning he said, "You're upset." She said, "I do not want to be around you when you are drunk. I don't like it." His family was going to Disneyworld but he scorned it. After she went home she kicked herself. Why hadn't she gone to the concierge and gotten a different room that night and bloody well gone to Disneyworld?

But she had already slipped into the familiar. The distant place where she was hidden very deep inside. Numb on her skin and the numbness extending deep to the self that was hidden inside like a tiny warm star. She could walk around, listen to him, smile, eat, be friendly to his family.

He put her on the plane the next day. He was staying to see old friends, for another ten days. He called each day, but she was in the familiar. It was how she'd survived childhood. It was well developed and strong, a barrier that let nothing through except her children. She stayed there licking her wounds. When he came back, she wept, but she was done.

She was in the familiar. It was another year before she ventured out.

Book #41 in the series Animorphs by K.A. Applegate.

Disclaimer: If you've heard of Animorphs and you're thinking "Aww, how cute," maybe you should read my introduction to the first book to see how wrong you are.

THE FAMILIAR

Animorphs #41
by K.A. Applegate

Summarized Plot:

After one of their battles during which Jake had to leave Marco and Rachel to fend for themselves, Cassie and Tobias seem traumatized and withdrawn, respectively, and Jake does nothing to comfort them. He just can't deal with it, and then doesn't use much caution coming home, where he's seen by Tom entering the house in suspicious spandex clothes. He goes to bed, but when he wakes up he's in some kind of alternate future and he's ten years older. Finding out that everyone thinks he's a Controller with a Yeerk named Essak, he explores this world of Yeerk-controlled future New York, and finds quite a few things that just don't seem to add up.

He finds future Cassie, who's a Controller but her Yeerk is in the EF--Evolution Front--dedicated to make Yeerks turn away from parasitism. But Cassie is a war-hardened terrorist now. He finds out from her that Marco and Ax are Controllers and that Rachel is dead, and gets very confused as Cassie tries to get him to use his apparent status to mess up a plot to turn the moon into a Kandrona emitter. Jake later gets captured by Controller Marco, who is trying to destroy the EF.

Fighting to figure out what his priorities are and what his mission is and who he should hide from, Jake ends up having to choose between destroying the ray that will let the Yeerks take over the world . . . and saving Cassie from a fatal fall. After he makes his choice, he is sucked back to his own reality with a voice in his head saying he made an interesting choice, and he knows this wasn't an Ellimist trick but doesn't know what it was. He does know, however, that Cassie is a high priority in his life and that he needs to act like it. He calls her and asks her if she's okay.

About this book:

Narrator: Jake

New known controllers:

  • Pretty much everyone from the alternate future
  • Cassie
  • Marco
  • Ax
  • Jake's father

New morphs acquired:

  • Jake: None
  • Cassie: None
  • Marco: None
  • Rachel: None
  • Ax: None
  • Tobias: None

Notable:

  • This book was ghostwritten by Ellen Geroux.

  • This book came out about a year before the September 11th tragedy, so the New York skyline included the World Trade Center, named specifically as a way that Jake recognizes he is in New York.

  • The Yeerk name Jake gets called by in his future world is Essak-Twenty-Four-Twelve-Seven-Five. Awfully big number. It suggests the Yeerks are much more plentiful now.

  • Aliens called the Orff are introduced here. They have single eyes with pupils that orbit the iris, and they have seemingly transparent skin, long necks, and three legs, and the appearance of organs under their skin are actually decoys.

  • It's odd that Jake would be so sure Tobias must be dead after he'd already seen an ancient red-tailed hawk and even wondered if it was Tobias. Even though it turns out Tobias wasn't that hawk, it seems like an inconsistent thought for Jake.

  • Marco is described as having battle scars on his face. That seems unlikely if he is still able to morph. Same with Rachel, who's much worse off; why is she crippled if she can still morph? It's never explained why their morphing abilities were taken away, but since the world has many inconsistencies perhaps this was engineered to make Jake wonder about the reality. His own inability to morph at one point could have been part of this as well.

  • Jake describes seeing purple-blue Hork-Bajir blood. Because this book is a constructed reality, it's not necessarily true that everything has to be true to life, but in a previous book Hork-Bajir blood is green-blue, not purple-blue.

  • Jake describes walking in a library and stopping when he gets to the E aisle. Libraries aren't organized by letter. They're organized by Dewey Decimal--by subjects. There shouldn't be an E aisle.

Best lines:

Jake: "Jake, you didn't plan this one, but now it's time to deal."

Cassie: "In a war, Jake, anything is justified. I'm not a kid anymore. I'm not concerned with the nonsense I used to be."
Jake: "Like life and peace?"

Tobias: "Victory without self-sacrifice? You know better than that."
Jake: "You don't have to give up your principles to win."

Tobias: "Save one or save many? The choice wasn't so hard for you at the Ragsin Building, when you left Marco and Rachel to save themselves. This is war, Jake. Sacrifices must be made."

Jake: I'd set the example. I was to blame for Cassie's hardness and Tobias's indifference.



Next book: The Journey, Animorphs #42

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