The final book in the series starts with a forward (bet you didn't see that one coming!), but opens with Jenni dreaming an alternate timeline where her younger children are alive. She wakes up to a zombie licking the window of the vehicle she's in (while I'm left wondering why it was licking the glass. do windows have flavor?)
A search party is returning to the fort with more survivors when they come upon zombies attacking a van. The zombies don't care that a caravan of goodies have arrived, they're more preoccupied with the task at hand (nomnomnomnom). Jenni launches an assault while they're preoccupied, more fighting happens, more zombie appear, some people die and another new person appears.
Back at the fort, Katie is hanging out with Stacy waiting for the search party to return from their outing. They're late, she's worried and while she's hanging out with Stacy (and the now dead floppy zombie. trust me on this one), she gets busted by Travis for not taking it easy while she's pregnant.
Moving right along, bitch queen trophy wife is still being bitch queen trophy wife and spineless rich guy is back (sigh). Lenore and Ken have set up a beauty shop. Otis is running being Otis (flamethrower!). The fort has found it's own form of normal and it's working (except in the case of bitch queen trophy wife).
Speaking of bitch queen trophy wife, she's gotten into her head that it's time to go home and the method she goes with is really quite stupid. Kidnapping Jenni and demanding the return of her Hummer. She's pissed off that spineless rich guy gave up being mayor and allowed their home to be raided for supplies. In the end, she shoots spineless rich guy and Juan (all together now- huge F@#$ mistake!) before Jenni comes to her senses and knocks her ass out.
It becomes clear the fort does not have the medical supplies needed to save Juan and the risky decision is made to raid a hospital nearby, even though it's known certain death is possible for those who risk it.
Meanwhile, bitch queen is accused of being the vigilante, something she laughs off completely. She is eventually released back into the wild (translation: she got drugged and dumped at home), but this is short lived. Her former partner in crime stole everything and Cop #2 only leaves her a can of chili and a gun with a single bullet. When partner in crime returns due to a dead car, she shoots him, then discovers she was left with a single bullet. Her comeuppance arrives and we're all a little happier for it.
The hospital mission goes as expected- death followed by a run in with the military. They want the fort. They're informed the people of Ashley Oaks won't like it, but they don't seem to care (go figure). They said everyone was to go to rescue centers for their own protection, make the safety seem like a bad idea gone good. Worse yet- the rescue center is a mall.
Cutting back to the fort, people are starting to realize something has gone wrong with the other people from the hospital mission and people leave to try and find them (or what remains of them). For some reason they also decide to check on bitch queen trophy wife (demise!).
In a field they discover Nerit's truck with the surgical tools needed to save Juan, but no trace of their friends. Close by there are signs of a helicopter and the conclusion is drawn about the presence of the military and the idea they have their friends (which isn't looked at very highly). The group returns to the fort to share what they've learned and after some weird form of hope spreads from a possibly military presence, the council meets to figure out the next steps.
Juan's surgery is a success and Travis has a dream involving Lydia, who gives him a dose of reality along with some gentle advice. Then we have a scene with Otis on a tractor leading farm animals and dogs to the fort. Otis provides confirmation to the news that had been suspected from the scene at bitch queen trophy wife's house- she's been zombified and is out wandering around.
Otis also reveals he knew about the military, which is why he risked bringing his animals to the fort. He says they have Jenni and Bill and will be on their way soon to the fort from a nearby mall.
Back at the mall, Bill has pretty much told a general to cram it after explaining it's the wild west again and Jenni is just miserable being cooped up. Jenni learns from a survivor how the mall came into existence at the beginning of the zombpocalypse and that was taken over by military brass and a senator no one likes.
Before we know it, the military makes their attempt to take the fort- first through surrender. However, we learn the person who was sent to request surrender, Kevin, doesn't want to take over the fort- he wants to bring people from the mall to the fort to escape the military brass and the senator. He also delivers news to Katie that her father is still alive. Katie makes the decision to back the senator into a corner and returns to the mall to make her case.
The senator starts things off by demanding the fort and getting everyone ready for her plan- military runs things, men work the fields and the women are reduced to barefoot and pregnant. The senator mentions that she will use the military to retrieve her sister (bitch queen trophy wife) and bring her to the fort as well.
Katie launches her rebuttal with the news of bitch queen's zombification, the fort is not theirs and never will be, if people want to come to the fort they can, but everything else is a no go. The senator attempts the argument of "I'm an elected official and know best," but Katie smacks that down. Military brass try to give Kevin a hard time about spilling the beans and is told they make a mockery of their uniform who never should have been given control of the rescue center.
The people at the mall are given a choice and the majority decide the fort is the best option. The senator launches into a PR laden speech about why her ideas are the way to go, but it falls on deaf ears. This doesn't make the senator happy at all, so she blows the gates and lets the zombies in.
Chaos ensues as zombies come in and start eating survivors in the mall. The explosion also starts a fire, adding to the chaos. Soon, all hell is breaking loose and we reach one of the most heart wrenching part of the series (I'm not kidding. I've read the series three times now and each time I break down sobbing at this part).
In the mass confusion, zombies and fire, Katie loses track of Jenni, but Travis doesn't let her go back to look for her. He's made the decision that Lydia told him he would need to make- he chooses the life of his family rather than try to save everyone. Military brass finds himself zombified while the senator escapes with her cronies.
As we zip through multiple scenes, it culminates with Jenni and two soldiers making the decision to make the ultimate sacrifice- distract the zombies while everyone else escapes. Jenni makes her stand at the waterfall located in the mall, but sadly, she is bitten by the zombified version of a friend she met at the mall. Jenni finishes her climb up the waterfall, where she is able to see Katie and raises her fist in a gesture of victory. Katie sees Jenni has been bitten and knows what she must do. With a heavy heart, she ends the life of her best friend. (and this is where I always start crying)
Back at the fort, Juan awakens to see Jenni, unaware of what's happened. They talk and make jokes before Juan realizes what's happening. Soon Jenni disappears and Juan is left alone. (and here's where I need a second tissue)
The survivors of the mall are loaded into vehicles and the helicopter also takes off. They take as many back roads as possible in order to avoid bringing the mall zombies back with them. There is an incident where a bitten survivor attacks everyone in their vehicle, so the convoy pulls off to the side of the road to inspect everyone else. Those who are found infected are offered the choice to have their lives ended or to be left alone to turn, but they will not be seeing the fort. Some run off into a field, unable to end it, while others kill themselves or allow themselves to be killed. Katie's father, a survivor from the mall, is found to be bitten and chooses to end his own life after he wishes Katie and Travis well. (and here's where I need the third or fourth tissue)
Everyone arrives back at the fort and there's a rush to find places for the residents of Ashley Oaks. People are reunited and the news is broken to Jason about Jenni (and at this point I've given up and just keep a box of tissue right next to me). The fort continues to monitor the radio and soon it becomes evident that the new government doesn't want the senator, thus their communication comes to an end. The residents of the fort discuss it and determine to hell with contacting the new government, they'll continue their lives as they have been.
Soon life takes on some form of normal and through it all, they discover a year has gone by since everything went to hell. Juan has survived his surgery and begins working on a memorial garden for the fallen. Children who Jenni died to save begin helping him with the garden and by the time the garden is built, Juan finds himself with a new family, something he feels Jenni had a hand in. (and now I need another tissue)
We catch up with Rune, who is talking with Jenni. Jenni explains she's happy with the way she died because she saved a lot of people she loved and went out on her own terms. The conversation turns dark as Jenni tells Rune a hoard of zombies is making their way to the fort and he needs to get a move on to warn them. Rune sees the zombie hoard as he's packing up his motorcycle and makes haste to get on the road.
We get a brief chapter about things from the zombies perspective. Some of them met their fate at the hands of a tornado, but they continue their onslaught towards the fort. (and here's where I wondered if any of the zombies in the tornado were whisked off to the land of Oz)
Rune makes it to the fort and is able to warn everyone. The best estimate given is the zombie herd would reach the fort at the end of the month, which gives everyone a chance to see where they need to shore up their defenses to make their stand.
The fort residents are gathered and are told the news about the impending zombie hoard. When confusion and fear erupts, Travis asks people to calm the f@#$ down and he's told to watch his language (and the follow up question makes perfect sense- there's a zombie hoard headed your way and you're worried about someone swearing?!)
Sadly, this leads to a religious debate where a zealot opens their damn mouth and causes a problem (and of course when you try to reason with them, they launch into super zealot mode and trying to use logic causes head explody). The zealot and their followers choose to leave immediately, while the rest of the fort starts to work on what they need to do for the coming trouble.
Nerit has a moment with Ralph in her room, who tells her she should have passed already, but she was too stubborn. He tells her she has bone cancer and that's why she has been in pain lately. Nerit begs for more time because she's not ready and collapses.
While Nerit hovers between life and death, Z-Day has arrived. Some of the fort residents have made attempts to get the attention of the zombies to divert them away from the fort.
The first group we see is Monica and Bette. Their diversion doesn't last long as runners force their truck to overturn. They're spotted from the helicopter and rescued.
The second group is Bill and Katarina. They find a zombie in a wheelchair. An unforeseen obstruction ends their distraction run and soon Bill's time with us comes to an end when he's bit. Katarina survives when she too is rescued by helicopter.
The third group is Dale and Ken. They discuss the possibility of other gay men in the fort and Ken pretty much says if that's true, they're so far in the closet they're finding Christmas gifts (thank you Family Guy for that bit of hilarity). Sadly they're overrun from a group of unplanned zombies, but have the chance to end things on their own terms.
The helicopter returns to the fort, news of the distraction runs circulate and a new plan has to be constructed. Heavy supply runs follow with every effort made to ensure the walls do not fall.
Katie receives a visit from Curtis, asking for someone to talk to about recent events. Katie feels sorry for him and agrees. When it's time to go, Travis takes Katie's place so she can rest. Travis meets Curtis, who suddenly goes off the deep end and reveals himself as the Vigilante. He intended to kill Katie so Travis can feel what he felt when he lost Monica to Bette.
At the same time, the veil between the living and the dead has become thin. Lydia talks to Katie. Ralph speaks to Nerit and wakes her from her coma. Jenni appears to Katie and tells her what's happening between Curtis and Travis, she needs to hurry. Katie calls Juan to tell him what happened, but he's left confused and she sets out on her own.
Katie arrives in enough time to see Curtis attacking Travis and he's invited some undead friends. A fight ensues and ends with Curtis and his merry crew of undead put out of commission.
Even though the Vigilante was outed and only those who meant harm were injured, dissension appears in the ranks because some cannot accept the appearance of ghosts. Those who wish to leave are told to leave that same night because the zombie hoard will appear the next morning. Otis provides the proof from a recorded conversation he had with people who had left before.
Soon it's settled and more people depart the fort. Some choose to end it all before the zombie horde hit.
The senator reappears and leaves just as quickly via razor wire.
Before we know it, the war is on and on in full force. The zombies never breach the walls and victory is shouted across the fort. Katie goes into labor and gives birth to a baby girl.
The people in the fort get ready to celebrate a brand new day and our journey with them comes an end.