If, like me, you’re a fan of apocalyptic fiction and weren’t all that impressed with Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (too many pages describing varying degrees of gray scenery in flowery prose, and not enough telling the thin story), The Pesthouse is a welcome palate cleanser. When it comes to End of the World scenarios I don’t demand mutants in dune buggies, but I still want to be entertained. Here British author Jim Crace delivers. It all takes place many decades after the United States has reverted to a neo-medieval wasteland after a vaguely remembered eco-catastrophe. And on the heels of a more immediate disaster that erases everyone they know, hobbled Franklin and unclean Margaret make their way across hostile territory to a boat about to set off across the pond to freight a cargo of American refugees to a supposed better life. What’s to be expected happens, but in a compelling way. The Pesthouse is in itself a sparse fable padded out with high-flying prose, but charms with its pulpy narrative and ultimately optimistic view of humanity rising above seemingly insurmountable obstacles.