THE YEAR OF THE FLOOD by Margaret Atwood

Book Quote:

“Ever since her family had died in such sad ways, ever since she herself had disappeared from official view, Toby had tried not to think about her earlier life. She’s covered it in ice, she’d frozen it. Now she longed desperately to be back there in the past – even the bad parts, even the grief – because her present life was torture. She tried to picture her two faraway, long ago parents, watching over her like guardian spirits, but she saw only mist.”

Book Review:

Review by Lynn Harnett (DEC 2, 2009)

In The Year of the Flood, two women, separately isolated, watch as a gene-engineered plague wipes out humanity in a stand-alone novel set in the same dystopian world Atwood first created in 2003’s Oryx and Crake.

Both women – Ren and Toby – are former members of God’s Garderners, a vegan, pacifist eco-cult who long predicted the “waterless flood” which destroys humanity.

Ren came to God’s Gardeners as a child, brought by her pouty, high-maintenance mother, Lucerne. Lucerne’s abandonment of her gated suburb and bland husband for a life of Saints’ days (St. Euell Gibbons, St. Farley Mowat of the Wolves) sack-dresses and soyberries, never quite convinces despite the manly, taciturn hunkiness of Zeb, a lover with a past.

Toby came as an adult, rescued from the doom of sex-slavery to her boss at SecretBurgers (ingredients rumored but never revealed!). Bright, middle class Toby’s future had crumbled with her mother’s mysterious illness, mounting bills, and her father’s ruin and subsequent death. Inheritor of debt, Toby could only shed her identity and join the other dropouts and rejects at the bottom whose non-official lives are brutal, vicious and brief.

The story shifts back and forth in time from its vantage point of the plague year. Toby, holed up at a fancy spa, calls on her survival skills – from journeying to her father’s grave to recover an outlawed rifle, to protecting her garden from gene-enhanced pigs. Ren, locked in the quarantine wing of a high-end sex club, watches her coworkers die of violence and plague and waits for rescue while her food dwindles.

Both women pass the time remembering the past, particularly their days with God’s Gardeners – an oasis of gentleness in a world shaped by cynicism, greed and violence, not that the Gardeners simply sit by, stockpiling food, encouraging self-sufficiency and waiting for apocalypse.

Atwood creates a character-driven page-turner replete with details that make her entirely privatized world come to life. Ren in her drab clothes, envying the slum kids their bright trinkets and colorful fashions, the Painball prison where the last left standing are released back onto the streets, the Mo’Hair sheep, the Liobams (lion and lamb), the eyecolor injections that go painfully awry.

Fans of Oryx and Crake will love this; those who haven’t read the earlier book will want to (there’s no reason to read them in order). Many writers conjure up prophetic dystopian visions but few do it with Atwood’s humor, imagination and brilliance.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-0from 223 readers
PUBLISHER: Nan A. Talese; First Edition (September 22, 2009)
REVIEWER: Lynn Harnett
AMAZON PAGE: The Year of the Flood
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Margaret AtwoodMargaret Atwood Society
EXTRAS: Official website for The Year of the FloodReading Guide and Excerpt
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December 2, 2009 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Character Driven, Scifi, y Award Winning Author

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