bonnie’s #CBR5 Review #64: The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

I put in a library request for Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam months ago, thinking I would languish on a waiting list. I did not. I currently have The Year of the Flood, MaddAddam, and Marisha Pessl’s book Night Film in my possession. I did not time this well. Thankfully, I absolutely devoured The Year of the Flood in a weekend. It was that good. Maybe I’ll read all three in the next two weeks…?

I read the first book in the MaddAddam trilogy, Oryx and Crake, months ago, so I won’t recap it here. It was good. Really, quite excellent. The Year of the Flood takes place in a similar timeline in the same universe, with many of the same characters…from a completely different point-of-view. This time, we get to know Toby and Ren, both members of God’s Gardener’s a cult-adjacent religion, who try to care for the earth and its creatures in a world choked by corporate greed and consumption. Toby does not consider herself a believer but reluctantly moves up the ranks of the Gardeners to become a spiritual leader of sorts. Ren, who is much younger, finds herself at odds in the world, since her mother had initially left her father to join the Gardeners and take up with one of its members, Zeb. On the day of the pandemic that Crake had unleashed in Oryx and Crake, both Toby and Ren struggle to survive the plague and escape to safety, while becoming observers of a shattered and fallen world.

I really enjoyed Oryx and Crake, but this book is far superior (in my opinion). Toby is an awesome lady, doubtful, honest, flawed, but ultimately determined to do what’s best. Her sense of honor is matched by her will to live and ability to think in a crisis. Ren, while much more fragile, is also an interesting and complex narrator, one who intersects with past characters much more closely to create sharp tensions in the trilogy.

As a feminist and a member of a faith community, I cannot recommend this enough. I was challenged, intrigued, stunned, and most of all captivated by such a beautiful, horrifying, and complex text. The women in this narrative transcend the token “strong woman” trope and actually make meaningful inroads in their community. I realize it’s impossible to be a utopic and dystopic text at once, but could it be that Atwood is trying to make a commentary about finding our inner strength in dystopia?

You can also read this review on my personal blog, The Universe Disturbed.

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