The Uninvited
Liz Jensen
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Buy *The Uninvited* by Liz Jensenonline

The Uninvited
Liz Jensen
Bloomsbury USA
320 pages
January 2013
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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Jensen deconstructs the world in which we live, with its elaborate corporations and financial institutions, the mechanics of progress thrown into chaos by random events so unthinkable that reality is upended. Children commit violent acts against their families; loyal employees sabotage corporations, industry brought to a screeching halt, economies badly shaken and near collapse. Hesketh Lock is in the midst of crisis when it first begins. An anthropologist who studies patterns for an international corporation is still adjusting to a broken romance and his inability to see his ex’s six-year-old son, Freddy.

Asperger’s Syndrome has defined Hesketh’s relationship and his choice of career, his unique skill set perfect for situation evaluation but a detriment to his romantic relationship. Not so with Freddy: Lock understands that children see things clearly, disdain adult dissemination. But suddenly children are no longer innocent but rather the small vehicles of unimaginable horror. Jensen structures her story as meticulously as Hesketh’s elaborate Venn diagrams of evolving theory, children turning on their loved ones in violence, responsible employees sabotaging their work environments.

The chaos spreads, from random incident (a girl shooting her grandmother with a nail gun; a boy shoving his mother down the stairs) to pandemic, from police report to Internet rumor. Mass hysteria grows from country to country, the world afflicted as people react predictably with fear and hostility, ignorance and violence. In the isolated rooms of these who study such phenomena, Hesketh, his superiors, coworkers and a brilliant elderly mentor analyze the meaning of events and the potential consequences for humanity. Hesketh’s clarity and rational explanations clear a pathway through the emotional detritus spreading everywhere.

At the heart of his actions, beyond his duty to examine and define these events, is Lock’s desire to protect Freddy, to be a father to a boy without one. No matter the chaos around him or the gravity of conditions for surviving this new paradigm, Freddy remains the lodestone of Hesketh’s existence, the key to understanding what has spread so rapidly through the world. From eco-terrorism to science to superstition, the variables expand and contract—relativity, ancient mythology, Chinese ghosts, djinn, tokoloshi—children become monsters, society in tatters.

While he considers the unthinkable and watches Freddy react to an altered universe, Lock folds origami patterns to still his thoughts, whether paper or imaginary, learning to see beyond what is known, to process what is lost and rekindle hope, even joy in a brutally altered future. A dystopian nightmare, a warning on the disastrous greed of a society bent on self-destruction, The Uninvited burrows into the imagination, deep into the psyche where such things bloom.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Luan Gaines, 2013

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