Earth Abides - The Quick Years Summary & Analysis

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The Quick Years Summary

There follows a section called "Quick Years." The section covers twenty-one years offering brief information on each. Em wants to begin numbering from Year One and establish the tradition of remembering the years by name rather than by number. She calls the first year the Year of the Baby because their first son, John, is born. The second child is born in the second year and they name her Mary. There were occasionally visitors though it was a relief when they moved on. The exception is Ezra, a kindly man who Ish and Em both like and miss when he was gone. Year Two becomes the Year of Ezra. Year Three is the Year of the Fires though the area of San Lupo was saved by the bay.

In Year Four, Ezra returns. He has two wives, Molly and Jean. Molly has a son named Ralph and there's a young simple-minded girl named Evie who Ezra says must have been five or six years old at the time of the virus outbreak. She apparently knew enough to open cans of food to survive and Ezra took her from that squalor. After much consideration, Ezra and Ish travel to find a couple Ezra had located during his earlier travels. George and Maurine are solid people and Ish and Ezra decide that the addition of the couple would be more of a strength than a weakness. Ish notes that it's rather like voting someone into a fraternity. In light of these additions, they name Year Four the Year of the Coming.

Year Five saw a dramatic increase in bulls, similar to the overpopulation of rats and ants. The people frequently encounter bulls and become adept at getting out of the way. They create a sport of it called "bull dodging," and Ish will later note that it's become their "national pastime." Year Five becomes the Year of the Bulls.

In Year Six, all four of the grown women in the community have children - Maurine, Em, Molly and Jean. There was a drought and the cattle population died off leaving a horrible stench behind. The adults were horrified but the children seemed to take it in stride. There were also grasshoppers in abundance that year, hurrying the demise of what grass remained. As they sought a name for this year, they considered the babies, dying cattle and grasshoppers. It seemed that the bad outweighed the good in the minds of the people and they eventually called it The Bad Year.

Year Seven became the Year of the Lions with the cats suddenly having a population boom such as other species had had over the years.

Year Eight became known as the Year We Went to Church. Ish notes that it sounds as if they went once and that it was something more than that, though not much. Ish says that some of the adults want to have church and that he sees no harm in it but that there's no leader and the idea falls soon by the wayside.

In Year Nine, a visitor stopped in for an overnight stay. When he left, everyone began feeling ill - incredible because none had been sick during the intervening years with anything other than measles or a sore throat that reacted to sulfa drugs. Ish believes it's because the chain of infection has been broken. That particular illness ran its course quickly though almost everyone caught the disease that seemed to be a common cold. Later, three of the children became mysteriously ill and it was deduced that they'd eaten rat poison. They all fell ill with diarrhea and died. One of them was the son of Ish and Em. The other two were children of Molly and Jean, both fathered by Ezra. Year Nine became known as the Year of the Deaths.

In Year Ten, the children suddenly discovered the art and fun of fishing so it became the Year of Fishing. In Year Eleven, Molly has a child that dies a birth - the first case of that happening. It's also the year Princess dies, and the older ones are deeply impacted by the dog's passing. Despite these two events, the children want to name the year the Year of the Woodcarving and Ish supports it.

Year Twelve is the Year of the Twins named for the birth of Joey and Josey to Em and Ish. In Year Thirteen, the vote is to call it the Good Year and in Year Fourteen they call it the Second Good Year. There were no children born in Year Fifteen and it is called the Year We Sang in honor of their explorations into music accompanied by Ish on the accordion.

In Year Sixteen, Mary and Ralph, children of Em and Molly, marry and have a child. It becomes the Year of the Grandchild. In Year Seventeen, a nearby house gives way to termite damage and the children name it the Year the House Busted. Year Eighteen becomes the Year of Schoolteaching as Ish tries to implement some formal educational practices. The children aren't eager to learn and the adults aren't overly supportive, but Ish perseveres.

In Year Nineteen, the children see their first elk prompting the Year of the Elk. In Year Twenty, an earthquake shakes the area though none of Ish's community is hurt. Year Twenty-One was to have been the Year of the Coming of Age as there are seven members of the third generation. However, it's discovered that Joey can read - and not haltingly like the others - and it's named the Year When Joey Read.

The Quick Years Analysis

It's during the second year that Ish plants a garden though he says that he has neither talent for it nor any desire. He wants the fresh vegetables but it seems that he has also associated the raising of food with creativity and that he desires that now. He battles cows, crows, and insects for the right to a few scraggly heads of lettuce and some small tomatoes. It's interesting that in Year Three Ish begins reading a lot again though he saves the university library for "when the time is ripe." It seems that he continues to hold to the idea that someday, the people will need those books to help rebuild civilization.

The idea of church was interesting. The adults have varying ideas ranging from Catholicism to skepticism. Ish notes that Maurine, not understanding the idea of being a skeptic, tells him that he can introduce the theories of the Skeptic Church into the services. There are Catholics and a Methodist in the mix but it's left to Ish to lead the services. He's uncomfortable because he himself doesn't believe in religion though he never fully denies that there's a God. Ish notes that he finally ended the organized service times saying that he'll allow each to pray individually as his heart leads, and that there's no hard feelings about the decision.

In Year Eleven, the children pick up woodcarving and are all working at the craft. Though other things happen - the death of Princess heavy on Ish's mind - he supports the name the Year of the Woodcarving. It seems likely that he's happy that the children are showing signs of creativity.

It's interesting to note that some of the children born are never named in the book. The child of Ish and Em who ate the rat poison and died is only identified as their son, never by name. Twenty-one children born to the four older women over these years survive to the twenty-second year. The adults note the importance of these births - even Ish who at one time worried about the dangers and wondered about the need. In the years when children are born, the adults note that it's as if the circle of light in their own community pushes the darkness back at least a little more. With each death - and with each year that no births occur - the darkness creeps back inward.

This section contains 1,352 words
(approx. 4 pages at 400 words per page)
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