The Year of the Flood

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“The Year of the Flood” is an epic, sprawling novel that moves back and forth between past, present and future effortlessly. Though it is told from Ren and Toby’s point of view, the novel is really about the story of three women (Ren, Toby, and Amanda) and their will to survive in a cruel and harsh world. It is a story of hope, despite all odds and a story of the power of love.

Fatefulness about the survival of the species is not new. Religious thinking has end-time built in, and most of our sentient life on the planet humankind has been predominantly religious. That has changed in Westernized countries, but only relatively recently, and alongside advances in scientific knowledge. Our new pessimism no longer depends on a deity to wipe out this wicked world. Since the Manhattan Project, we have learned to do these ourselves.

That end is also the end of “The Year of the Flood.” Here Atwood has brilliantly re-told her own tale, through other mouths and focusing on different details, showing us how the kids Jimmy and Glenn become the Snowman and Crake, (from “Oryx and Crake”) and how an end-- or the End-- can happen in the name of new beginning.

The Waterless Flood has long been predicted by God’s Gardeners, a back-to-nature cult founded by Adam One. Its members live simply and organically, sing terrible hymns, have no dress sense and peddle a bolted-together theology, difficult to think about if you think at all. With values diametrically opposed to those of the ruling CorpSEcorps, the Gardeners aren’t “the answer,” but at least they’ve asked enough questions to avoid a life of endless shopping and face-lifts.

The Gardeners sometimes do evangelical work in the mean streets, known as the pleeblands, or picket at fast-food joints like SecretBurgers because it’s wrong to eat anything with a face. At SecretBurgers they have rescued a young woman named Toby from the murderous clutches of her sex-crazed boss, Blanco the Bloat, and it’s Toby who is one of the...
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