Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood

When I pulled this book out of my shelf again to review it, I wanted to re-read it all over again. If I’m being honest, it wasn’t only because the book is an intriguing read. It was mostly because I forgot so many of the gripping details. Like Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood sucks you right into its world.

“Adam One used to say that people can believe two opposite things at the same time, and now I knew it was true” (229).

The reader gets to experience a different side of the drama between Snowman and Crake, the two protagonists of the first book and the central characters in the plague that is unleashed as part of the main plot. Again, even in review, I get a sort of vertigo with this book because of the apocalyptic events that haunt the narrative. It’s almost premonitory to 2020 COVID-19 global breakdown.

Ren and Toby are the two female figures we follow throughout the narrative. Margaret Atwood does something wonderfully well with these two female characters. They are not distinctively feminine despite the events they go through. Ren, for example, works at a strip club called Scales and Tails. There were so many moments when I genuinely thought of them as gender fluid, and their names may add to some of that.

“Nature may be dumb as a sack of hammers, Zeb used to say, but it’s smarter than you” (366).

I’m not sure how much of the plot to tell you. Suffice to say that Ren knew both Snowman and Crake rather well; Jimmy and Glen were friends with her in college and their paths cross multiple times. Toby is connected to all of them through the Gardeners, a commune with an anti-corporation agenda that is ultimately proven correct in their paranoia. Yes, this book is riddled with allusions to very contemporary themes and mythologies and secret societies.

Margaret Atwood is very intentional with her allusions. It’s part of the charm of this book. For real literary junkies, the little details make it a real pleasure to re-explore at a later time. I almost want to be a literary snob and note that the wittiness sprinkled throughout the book is something that readers can only appreciate if they have some knowledge of English literature beyond the basic K-12 Shakespeare.

“We have betrayed the trust of the Animals, and defiled our sacred task of stewardship. God’s commandment to ‘replenish the Earth’ did not mean we should fill it to overflowing with ourselves, thus wiping out everything else” (52-53).

One of the central questions that Crake and his fatal virus forces us to confront is “What is the real plague on Earth?” This book is like promotional material for condom use and ecological conservatorship, highlighting the reasons why Margaret Atwood is simultaneously one of the most loved writers and one of the most contentious at the moment. The book asks the reader to take long, hard, and cold look at humanity.

Among the pleasures of this book, the reader learns a lot more about the mysterious and creepy Maddaddam Game. Jimmy’s mother also makes an appearance. Towards the end, we have a sort of reunion of surviving characters on an unknown stretch of coast. Atwood wraps The Year of the Flood up with an ellipsis … stay tuned for the final book of The Maddaddam Trilogy.

Works Cited

Atwood, Margaret. The Year of the Flood: a novel. New York: Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2009. Print.

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