The recent Times Square bombing attempt reminded me to revisit our disaster preparedness plan. My partner Bryan and I live in New York City and first created ours in 2005, the year beginning with George W. Bush’s second term, North Korea claiming nuclear weapons, Joan Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking — and Katrina.  Survival was the big theme. So we downloaded a template off the web, opened a bottle of pinot noir, and ordered in dinner to create it. Looking now for that file on my MacBook Air (an update since the iMac then), I considered how much has changed for us in five years. Bryan and I have both switched jobs twice, we have three more nieces and nephews, we have cycled through a dozen housekeepers, the Chinese restaurant from which we ordered that night has closed (a victim of the credit crunch) and our two-bedroom apartment’s value has doubled — and halved. Updating our emergency plan, five areas revealed how else life can move on.

It is dangerous to summarize an Emily St. John Mandel novel.Spoilers would abound in any description, but also a synopsis of Mandel’s thriller/mystery plots would risk trivializing or reducing this immensely talented writer’s work.I’ll limit myself, therefore, to saying that The Singer’s Gun, Mandel’s sophomore novel, is about a man named Anton who grew up with parents who sold stolen goods.Anton himself has worked with his beautiful and cold cousin selling fake passports, but has hankered after the “straight” life and tried to attain it.Of course he finds—as all characters find in fiction, and indeed most people find in life—that it is entirely difficult to outrun your past, and if you are serious about doing so you will probably need to make some pretty unpalatable sacrifices along the road to freedom.