Friday, March 21, 2014

Flood Insurance

In The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood, a group of people who call themselves "God's Gardeners" are preparing for a waterless flood that they believe will afflict humanity.  They are not sure what form that flood will take, but they prepare by learning about plants and wildlife and creating store houses of supplies.  TYOTF is the second book in the series that began with Oryx and Crake, and many of the Oryx characters make appearances.  We catch glimpses of Jimmy as a boy, but more closely follow the stories of his girlfriend from high school, Ren, and her fellow Gardeners. 

The Gardeners are sort of a cult, and sort of a progressive religion.  They worship saints such as Saint Stephen King, and Saint Diane Fossey.  On the whole they strive to be good people who are preparing for the inevitable in a thoughtless and selfish world.  However, the people controlling the Gardeners just might be working to make the waterless flood come sooner rather than later through eco-terrorism.  Darwin would be appalled when the flood actually strikes.  It is not the strong that survive, but the lucky and the secluded. 

TYOTF is a more linear book than Oryx and Crake.  Oryx went back and forth between the present and Jimmy's memories, with the reader trying to figure out what was happening when.  In TYOTF, the story progresses through years of the Gardner calendar, starting in about year 4, and ending in year 25.  Because the stories cover the same time period from different perspectives, one could really read either book first.  It would be interesting to talk to someone who read TYOTF first, to see how their impressions of the characters differ from those of a person who read the books in their proper order.  TYOTF actually ends about four hours after Oryx, which is good because Oryx ended with a cliff hanger.  For the last 1/4 of TYOTF I kept wanting to tell Jimmy to stop and not jump off that cliff.  Those extra four hours resolved the issue that was left open in Oryx, but left the characters with another dangerous challenge to face in the final book of the series, Maddaddam.

My dad listened to TYOTF  on audio book, and insisted that I had to listen to it instead of read it.  He was totally right.  There are at least 10 Gardner hymns in the story, which I would have skimmed at most if I was reading.  In the audio version, the hymns are set to music, with guitars, percussion and back-up singers.  None of the hymns are destined to be Top 40 hits, but it showed the Atwood put a lot of thought and care into the audio version by including the songs in this way.

The Year of the Flood was a New York Times Notable Book for 2009.  I am counting this one for my Audiobook and I Love Library Book challenges.

Next Up on CD:  A Secret Kept by Tatiana de Rosnay

Still Reading:  Night Film by Marisha Pessl

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