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Sharp and Dangerous Virtues

A Novel

Martha Moody

Publication Year: 2012

It’s 2047 in Dayton, Ohio. In response to food and water shortages, the U.S. government has developed an enormous, and powerfully successful, agricultural area—the “Heartland Grid”—just north of the city. In the meantime, in the wake of declining American power a multinational force has established itself in Cleveland. Behind these quickly shifting alliances lies a troubling yet tantalizing question: what will the American future look like?

Sharp and Dangerous Virtues is the story of ordinary people caught in situations they had never planned for or even imagined. There are Chad and Sharis, a married couple with two sons, holding out for normal life in their decaying suburb; Tuuro, a black church custodian whose false confession of murder is used for political purposes; Lila, Dayton’s aging, lonely Commissioner of Water, who dreams of being part of the “pure” existence of the Grid residents; and Charles and Diana, idealistic lovers trying desperately to preserve the nature center that has become their refuge.

What will these people do? What choices are left for them, and what choices have been taken away? Whom and what can they trust? Novelist Moody—known for her vivid portrayals of complicated characters and relationships in novels such as Best Friends and Sometimes Mine—weaves together cataclysmic events and the most intimate of human emotions to create a future that seems achingly real. Sharp and Dangerous Virtues will change the way you think and feel.

Published by: Ohio University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-viii


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pp. 1-2

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A Family and a Place

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pp. 3-10

North of Dayton, Ohio, where Chad and Sharis (“It rhymes with Paris,” she said) Gribble and their sons, Howard and Leon, lived, there was a polymer fence close to twenty feet high, a fence that went forever, surrounding a dedicated agricultural area of over fifty thousand square miles. The Grid was roughly the shape of a nine-by-twelve casserole. ...

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Tuuro and the Boy

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pp. 11-25

At Westminster Presbyterian, the church in downtown Dayton where Tuuro worked, the new (five years) pastor liked to call him Our Director, using a hearty, booming voice that made Tuuro squirm inside. Tuuro was in maintenance. Aunt Stella, not Tuuro’s real relative but his godmother or whatever she was, ...

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Lila Wakes Up (1)

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pp. 26-37

“You mean State.” The State people were pests. The loss of Cleveland had thrown them into a tizzy. By June 2047, the cavernous lakefront edifice that had been built as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was a tracking station receiving information from Canada and Alliance ships in the Atlantic. ...

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What Sharis Knew

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pp. 38-49

She may not have gone to college, but Sharis knew things. Here was knowledge she kept to herself: deprivation and the threat of danger made her feel alive. Weeding, stirring, chopping, always planning. Every day was not the same. Basic things mattered. ...

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pp. 50-63

No one came anymore. No families appeared in the parking lot, children tumbling from the cars and screaming; no solitary birdwatchers worshipped in the Church of the Woods; no school buses disgorged their loads and waited, their drivers lingering at their vehicles like coachmen near their steeds. ...

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Some Tales of Sanity

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pp. 64-79

Among the many rescue stories of the Torah, Chad’s mother’s particular favorite was the tale of Joseph, the boy with the coat-of-many-colors that his father had given him, the youngest son so hated by his brothers that they planned to kill him. ...

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True Believers

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pp. 80-93

John Patterson, Dayton’s flood-time hero, made his fortune in cash registers. Cash registers are—think about it, Chad said—an open admission that money is a temptation and people steal. The early National Cash Register sales literature stated this fact quite freely. ...

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Always a Story

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pp. 94-105

There’s always a story, Chad liked to tell his students: that’s how the news media work. And a proper story has a beginning, middle, and end. There may be epilogues and prologues (there usually are); someone in the future may pop up with a reinterpretation; one story may segue into another. ...

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A Dose of Yearning with the Mashed Potatoes

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pp. 106-126

Chad sighed. “Cub Scouts?” Chad would be starting classes, too. Two people from his department had left—an assistant professor and an instructor—and virtually none of the East Coast students were returning. Chad would be teaching classrooms of Catholic Ohioans. ...

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pp. 127-142

“Now what virtue kicks in?” Chad said, resuming his pacing. “They’re discouraged, they’re disheartened, they don’t believe in themselves they way they used to.” ...

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Waiting for Winter

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pp. 143-161

Prem left. Prem had a sick cousin, suddenly, back in Cambodia, and before the dean had reassigned his classes, Prem was gone. He left his glasses in the drawer of his desk, photos of his daughters hanging on the wall. He rolled up his degrees and piled their disassembled frames on the floor. ...

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The Monitor Station

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pp. 162-175

It sleeted for three days in mid-December, turning to wet snow at night. Ice was everywhere. The trees were spectacularly and weightily encrusted, twigs and branches snapping in the breeze. A mitten Leon had left outside turned as stiff as plaster. ...

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Nenonene’s Voice

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pp. 176-192

“You didn’t put out a cup for him,” General Nenonene said. Such an innocuous phrase, and so mildly uttered, but something in it—Tuuro heard it—suggested a moral judgment. The words sent the four men who accompanied the General, as well as Allyssa, all scurrying back to the kitchen. ...


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pp. 193-194

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Tuuro’s Confession

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pp. 195-210

Tuuro was expected to memorize his confession. There was nothing for him to take home and study because nothing should be leaked out. The confession was extremely explicit, because—Mrs. Calder said—people were idiots and needed things spelled out. ...

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pp. 211-223

Tuuro’s twelfth-day meeting with Nenonene was carried on the media in real time on a Sunday afternoon. At the last moment the Baxter administration withdrew their case (the Supreme Court was sure to rule against them, all the analysts said) and permitted the show to go out on American media. ...

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“Human Folly Is Always Amusing”

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pp. 224-237

Lila called the number on Nelson and Solganik’s card. “That service you provided for me”—she gripped the phone with her shoulder, twisted a rubber band around her wrist— “could it be undone?” Why hadn’t she thought of torture? Incessant screeching noises piped into her brain. ...

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Baby Lettuces

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pp. 238-254

Janie, Michelle’s cousin’s daughter, didn’t read the sexy sort of books that Lila had. In her hand was a copy of The Bell Jar, a book that had been tired back in Lila’s youth. This relieved Lila. Lila was also relieved—watching Janie mount the front steps to her condo ...

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pp. 255-264

“Funny to see it without snow!” the copilot shouted. They were taking off from the Esslandian Green House again, the copilot at the controls, the whuppa-whuppa of the helicopter almost drowning his words. ...

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Talking to Howard

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pp. 265-277

Lila imagined a cartoon of herself sucking on a lemon (of course), trails of smoke coming out the top of her head. What do you mean there are Alliance troops heading for Dayton? How dare they head for Dayton? Down I-75, the media said, their armored personnel carriers and trucks and tanks greeted by the Gridians with shouts and food and flowers. ...

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Identity, Mistaken

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pp. 278-289

“She thinks you’re my handyman,” Chelsea giggled as they walked down the street. Tuuro, a bucket in one hand and a sack of groceries in the other, had a second of unease. He straightened his back, tried to walk like Nenonene—but perhaps that would remind people of a handyman more. ...

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Migrations, Implantation

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pp. 290-300

“I need to get back to Dayton,” Tuuro said when Akira arrived. She came in through the back door, into the kitchen, where Tuuro kept his TV on the table and where he spent most of his day. ...

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A Very Clear Window

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pp. 301-313

“Well,” Ferrescu conceded, “I do.” Lila felt a sweep of revulsion that her compliment had worked so easily. She thought back to moments before and her confusion when a man who looked like Ferrescu’s elderly uncle had opened the door. “Is Ferrescu . . .” she had started, then realized it was him: “ . . . ready for the Queen of Water?” ...

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Lila Wakes Up (2)

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pp. 314-324

The tacticians agreed on water. Bombing was tired. Pestilence or gas—in such a dispersed population—was unreliable. But water had the advantages of ubiquity, of surprise, of historical recall, of metaphor. Patient water, eroding canyons and caves over millions of years. ...

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The Face of War

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pp. 325-341

“Why Dayton?” Chad said. “Why do we live in a suburb of Dayton, instead of Dayton being a suburb of here? After all, Centerville had limestone and the highest elevation in Montgomery County. Centerville had stone sidewalks when Dayton had roads made of mud. Beavertown had a post office.” ...

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The SafePlace Camp

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pp. 342-352

Chad was trying to stress the positive. He was very impressed, for example, with the door of their apartment (their “dwelling,” to use the Marriott term), which had a frame and locked and opened and was tall enough that Chad didn’t bump his head. Those Marriott people knew their stuff. ...

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Memorial Day

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pp. 353-362

“This is the first time I really feel threatened,” Sharis muttered to Chad as they ate supper, Abba-less, the four of them clustered around the table in their dwelling. They’d carried out their loaded plates from the dining tent, dodging the ’urge and her minions. “I’m glad we brought dinner home.” ...

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Don’t Shoot Me

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pp. 363-374

Lila imagined a cartoon of herself sucking on a lemon (of course), trails of smoke coming out the top of her head. What do you mean there are Alliance troops heading for Dayton? How dare they head for Dayton? Down I-75, the media said, their armored personnel carriers and trucks and tanks greeted by the Gridians with shouts and food and flowers. ...


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pp. 375-376

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Not the End of the World

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pp. 377-390

Howard and Leon grew up and got married, Howard to a woman who was fascinated by his story. Chad worried that Howard was a sullen husband, but as the years passed it became clear that Mella wouldn’t leave him, that the adhesive glamour of his tragedies stuck Mella to him too firmly to pick off. ...

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pp. 391

The first notion of Sharp and Dangerous Virtues came to me one morning as I was driving home from the grocery store and had a vision of tanks moving down Whipp Road past the elementary school. This was in 1998. I’m not prone to seeing things, so I paid attention. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780804040518
E-ISBN-10: 0804040516
Print-ISBN-13: 9780804011419
Print-ISBN-10: 0804011419

Page Count: 400
Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Food supply -- Government policy -- Fiction.
  • United States -- Foreign relations -- Fiction.
  • Dayton (Ohio) -- Fiction.
  • Suspense fiction. -- gsafd.
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