Review

The Year of the Flood

by Margaret Atwood

Adam One, leader of God's Gardeners, has always tried to make
his followers ready for the Waterless Flood. The Gardeners, a
religious group centered on the veneration of nature and the
natural care of the body and soul, are anomalies in a world of
bio-engineered animals, horrible pollution, corrupt corporations,
extreme violence, poisonous foods, and much, much worse. But they
continue to tend their rooftop gardens, raise bees for honey, learn
about the diversity of nature, and remember the extinct animals.
The Gardeners also take in the lost and endangered: those with no
place to go or those running away from enemies. They find these
poor souls and provide them with safe refuge. And when the
Waterless Flood sweeps across the already damaged and decaying
planet, the Gardeners’ skills may save them from immediate
death, but it may not be enough to save them from the new form of
life designed to live on a wrecked earth.

In THE YEAR OF THE FLOOD, the brilliant Margaret Atwood takes us
on another disturbing dystopian journey to a world that is both
unrecognizable and all too familiar to our own world. I say another
because THE YEAR OF THE FLOOD is a spin-off from Atwood’s
previous novel, ORYX AND CRAKE, a work shortlisted for the Booker
Prize (given out to the author who wrote the year’s best
novel). The protagonists of ORYX AND CRAKE make appearances here,
but the story focuses on two women, Toby and Ren, Gardeners who
left the fold for different reasons. The book moves back and forth
between their points of view, interspersed with occasional sermons
and hymns by Adam One.

Toby was rescued from an abusive boss, Blanco, who was using her
as a sex slave. The Gardeners took her in and made her one of their
own, despite her doubts. The rituals, if not the beliefs, comforted
her, and she found their haven to be a safe place. And yet the
threat of Blanco remained, and she felt that she could only stay
hidden among the Gardeners for so long. While with them, though,
she learns herbal lore, survival skills and patience. Our other
protagonist, Ren, was raised with the Gardeners but parted ways
when her mother left the group to return to the corporate world she
had once abandoned. Ren decides not to finish college and
eventually ends up as a prostitute in an infamous sex club where
she is sealed into a room when the Flood hits. When she is finally
rescued, she is brought right back into the world of God's
Gardeners...but the world at large has been changed so radically
that even their optimism, skill and attempts to sabotage the
nefarious powers that be may not be enough to save them.

Toby and Ren are compelling characters --- abused victims of an
ugly world. They are both hopeful women, strong yet vulnerable, and
each internalizes Adam One's message in their own way. The
supporting characters are interesting as well, though their
motivations are often obscured. Adam One may be a benevolent
believer or a charismatic cult leader; Zeb is both a kindly
protector and a man with a clouded past who has the ability to
destroy the Gardeners.

Critical of irresponsible science, corporate greed, a culture of
instant gratification, veneration of artificial beauty and the
over-sexualization of women, Atwood finds many enemies for her
characters. The world she creates here, one of SecretBurgers,
pleebmobs, Painball and Happicuppa coffee, is terrible and lonely,
but there are moments of wicked wit as well. This is a dark,
violent, ambitious, occasionally fumbling, but mostly enthralling
novel.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on January 24, 2011

The Year of the Flood
by Margaret Atwood

  • Publication Date: July 27, 2010
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor
  • ISBN-10: 0307455475
  • ISBN-13: 9780307455475