All Good Tova Good­man Revised Edition

Mary E. Carter

  • Review
By – April 3, 2023

In this sequel to the fas­ci­nat­ing I, Sarah Stein­way (2018), Tova, like Sarah, is an old­er Jew­ish Amer­i­can woman strug­gling to sur­vive the apoc­a­lyp­tic Emper­or Floods that have inun­dat­ed the East and West Coast. Set in the near future in Tova’s own pen, Mary Carter’s All Good Tova Good­man revis­its a num­ber of the ques­tions — and char­ac­ters — that occu­pied the first book, such as the role of the gov­ern­ment dur­ing and after the cat­a­stro­phe and the cause of the ris­ing tides.

Tova is born dur­ing the good war” when her father is a sol­dier. Her moth­er feels that she is a very good baby girl and names her Tova Good­man accord­ing­ly. Tova will come to see her dou­bly good name as both a mys­tery and a call­ing. She will spend her entire life­time search­ing com­pul­sive­ly for the mean­ing of the word good,” con­sult­ing many Jew­ish and sec­u­lar texts and fic­tion and midrash of her own mak­ing. Tova believes that good” requires a clos­er read­ing. What makes some­thing good, accord­ing to G‑d, lit­er­a­ture, and humanity?

All Good Tova Good­man describes what hap­pens after the West Coast has gone under­wa­ter. So many incom­pre­hen­si­ble tragedies and strange phe­nom­e­na occur that at times Carter’s prose feels like a rush­ing stream of con­scious­ness. Tova lives in the embrace of the north­ern escarp­ment of the San­dia moun­tain range” in Plac­itas, New Mex­i­co. Before the Emper­or tides, Plac­itas was a retire­ment com­mu­ni­ty; now, it is the seashore. The peri­od after the floods is called the good old days” — just anoth­er fab­ri­ca­tion, an adver­tis­ing tagline. Tova recalls, The news poured down the wires and scorched the com­put­er screens and … our very vis­cera with brand new virus­es. But that is not what the sur­vivors were told. They were told it is all good. all good, and all the while it was no-good, no-good, no good at all.” She adds that they went crazy see­ing it all and being told that what we saw was not what we saw.”

And what became of the gov­ern­ment, emer­gency ser­vices, and res­cue dur­ing the flood and epi­demics? They took charge. Doled out libel, called it jus­tice. Killed, bul­lied. They broke us. Lied to us. Lashed out at us. Fired us. Can­celed our pen­sions. Or worse, sim­ply ignored us. We were left to sur­vive things as best we could. No help­ing hands. No emer­gency aid. No good came of it.” Gov­ern­ment lead­ers take to the skies in large drones. Some shoot at peo­ple on the ground for tar­get prac­tice. Yet sur­vivors in Plac­itas car­ry on, some even achiev­ing old age. Tova her­self lives to be one hundred. 

A ques­tion that aris­es for the read­er in I, Sarah Stein­way returns briefly in All Good Tova Good­man: What was the cause of the Emper­or floods and the oth­er dis­as­ters that fol­lowed? The read­er assumes that cli­mate change is the cul­prit, but this is nev­er made explic­it. Tova explains, It was a mass extinc­tion. Maybe it start­ed with the Emper­or Floods. Or not.” No one talked about how or why this thing took place. Maybe it was the result of glob­al warm­ing, loss of pol­li­na­tors, crop fail­ures, soil ero­sion. And not events that could be labeled good or bad.”

Tova spends her entire life­time search­ing for the mean­ing of the word good.’ And now, enough of that.”

Inger Saphire-Bern­stein is a health pol­i­cy pro­fes­sion­al with exten­sive expe­ri­ence across mul­ti­ple health care deliv­ery set­tings and the insur­ance indus­try. She has pub­lished a num­ber of arti­cles and papers in the health pol­i­cy field.

Discussion Questions