I just finished reading a superb first novel today. It’s called The Only Ones, by Carola Dibbell. In a distinctive and strikingly original voice, Inez Fardo relates what life is like in mid-21st century New York City and environs, when pandemics are ravaging the entire world, and no one can have children in what Inez calls “the regular way.” She’s been orphaned twice, once as a baby, again when she’s 10 by the woman who found her, and she’s had to survive on the street ever since. Which she can because she is a hardy, someone who is mysteriously immune to all the pathogens swirling around the world.
At 19 she becomes enmeshed in a scheme to harvest her hardy eggs and, eventually, to try the possibly criminal act of cloning. When the client changes her mind, Inez is left with Ani, a baby she’s not prepared for and has no idea what to do with – she’s never even seen a baby.
From here on, the story pulls you into the feelings of every new mother -- is the baby still alive? what do I do when she cries? when does the mother sleep? – exacerbated by there being no community of other mothers for her to consult. When she sees the rare baby or small child, she wonders, is that one a clone, or a “regular” child? Is Ani the only one, or are there others? But she can’t ask, because it could put both of them in danger.
Inez’s efforts to keep them both alive are Sisyphean, because her wits are virtually their only resource; she’s a poor single mother, and even when the city is falling apart, the well-off live in Domes and their children are just as spoiled and snobbish as well-off kids are today.
There is so much going on in this novel, about love and connection, desperation and bureaucracy, the lengths one will go to, to survive. It’s brand new, from a small publisher. Ask your library to order it, buy it from your local independent bookstore; it’s even an e-book.