The Year of the Flood- a Book Review
The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood is not really a sequel to Oryx and Crake. I like to call it a sister book. It covers the same events only from the point of view of two different characters. Atwood takes her poetic genius to a new level by incorporating original poetry in the form of hymns and sermons for the eco-religious group the Gardeners which play a central role for The Year of the Flood. I wouldn't say I like Year of the Flood more than Oryx and Crake, but I'm always a sucker for a strong female character, and Toby and Ren were both magnificent.
Unlike Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood accounts for the stories of two different individuals, Ren and Toby. Each story begins with their immediate situation post-Crake's attempt to eliminate the human race, and then their lives before, as well as, events immediately leading up to the disaster.
Ren and Toby first met through an organization known as the Gardeners. The Gardeners were a self-sufficient, eco-religious group that shunned the consumerism that ran rampant in the world. They lived in compounds where they grew their own food and made their own clothes. They worshiped a god, embraced science, and mourned the loss of extinct species. Atwood writes beautiful hymns and sermons for the Gardeners that shed light on their unique belief systems. The Gardeners also believed that the world would soon experience a water-less flood caused by the corporations that would attempt to wipe out mankind.
The gardeners save Toby from a misogynistic pimp. Though she is hesitant about their beliefs initially, she eventually embraces the group and becomes an important leader in the group. Her past comes back to haunt her as her former employers seeks her out. She's forced to work undercover in a health resort which is where she finds herself when the flood hits. She is able to retrieve a rifle which she uses to keep people away who are infected right after the flood. There is enough food in the resort to keep her alive.
Ren was brought to the Gardeners as a young child when her mother ran left her husband in the modules for another man in the pleeblands. While there, she meets Amanda, a street girl, and brings her to the Gardeners. Ren is drawn to Amanda's wild ways, and they become best friends. One day in Ren's early teen years, her mother decides to move back to the modules. Ren meets a boy named Jimmy (the same Jimmy from Oryx and Crake) at school and falls in love. He is not the commitment type and their relationship soon falls apart. Ren also gets to know Jimmy's best friend Glenn. Glenn is smart but odd. Upon graduating, Ren finds herself at the same fine arts college as Jimmy. After a few months, her mother informs her that she will no longer be able to pay for Ren's education. Ren goes to a local job fair and runs into Toby who gets her job at the health resort. Ren also gets her back in touch with Amanda.
One day Ren goes to visit Amanda and finds that she is dating none other than her ex Jimmy. For whatever reason, this puts Ren over the top and she quits the health resort for a job at the lucrative dance club called Scales. Right before the flood, Ren got sick and placed in isolation. The air tight, locked room stocked with food kept her safe until Amanda was able to make it Scales.
Soon after Amanda arrives, two of their old Gardener friends shows up at Scales. They are being chased by convicts and the group all has to leave Scales and find a new place to hide. They head towards the health resort in hopes that Toby is still alive. On the way, Amanda and Ren are captured by the convicts. Ren is able to escape and make her way to Toby. They go in search of Amanda and find even more Gardeners that have survived. Eventually they also find Amanda and have a run in with the Crakers and Snowman.
The Year of the Flood is a perfect compliment to Oryx and Crake. The way Margaret Atwood is able to intertwine the characters' lives makes the books even more captivating. Learning about Jimmy and Glen from Ren's perspective sheds new light on their characters. Jimmy begins to seem like less of a loss soul and more of a jerk. Atwood's writings about the Gardeners including their hymns and sermons are prophetically poetic.
According to Atwood, a third book is coming. A time line for this new work is not in place yet. I loved Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood so I will gladly read another book, but I will also say that The Year of the Flood did not leave me hanging. There was a type of closure unlike other series. Nevertheless, I look forward to learning more about the lives of the post-apocalyptic survivors and their relationship with the Crakers.