Tuesday, September 17, 2019

After the Flood by Kassandra Montag

"I keep thinking grief feels like climbing a staircase while looking down," she said. "You won't forget where you've been, but you've got to keep rising. It all gets farther away, but it's all still there. And you've only got one way to go and you don't really want to go on rising, but you've got to. And that tightness in your chest doesn't go away, but you somehow go on breathing that thinner, higher air. It's like you grow a third lung. Like you've somehow gotten bigger when you thought you were only broken." 

~ fr. p. 282 of Advance Reader Copy, After the Flood (Some changes may have been made to the finished copy)

100 years in the future, after climate change has led to such widespread flooding that cities and mountains are buried, Myra and her daughter Pearl struggle to survive. Myra was abandoned by her husband — who took their daughter, Row, with him — during the early days of the Earth-drowning flood. She was pregnant at the time and has been traveling the world on a boat her grandfather built, Bird. Myra and Pearl fish and trade in the few small port towns at what used to be mountain peaks but now are the last remnants of land.

When Myra finds out Row (short for Rowena) is still alive but in danger of a new horror, she decides she must rescue her eldest daughter. But, that means traveling across the North Atlantic, which is prone to rough waters and deadly storms. Her boat isn't strong enough. Then, she and Pearl find another way. I won't spoil the plot point that lands them on a separate boat.

At first, it seems like they've found a fairly harmonious little group of people to sail with, but all is not as it seems. Myra lies about wanting to look for Row, instead saying she's heard The Valley, the place Row is located, is a great place for settlers. But, she knows it's been overrun by a group known as the Lost Abbotts and that she has little time to rescue her daughter. There are also the Lily Black to deal with, basically pirates who murder and plunder. It's a vicious new world. Pearl is going through a stubborn adolescent phase and has an odd affinity for snakes. Myra knows she could be kicked off the ship for lying. Daniel, a man Myra rescues, and the ship's captain, Abran, have dark secrets of their own. And, absolutely everyone has one or more losses they're grieving.

Recommended - I found After the Flood a slow-paced read, apart from the occasional heart-pounding action scene, and one of my biggest problems with it was that I didn't particularly like Myra. She was strong, resourceful, and had a lot of interesting survival skills, though, so what I did like was reading about how she and Pearl survived and thinking about that world and the what-ifs. What would I do if I was in this situation? Would I say or do the same things? Would I choose to live on land or go from port to port, like Myra? How would I survive?

In spite of the fact that I thought the book could have been tightened up a little, I enjoyed it. In general, I found the world-building fascinating and if a dystopian novel is readable enough (while slow of pace, the writing was solid enough to keep me going and I did want to know whether or not Myra and Pearl would find Row), I will finish a dystopian for the experience of imagining myself in that world. So, I most enjoyed After the Flood for the way it made me think and for some adventurous, heart-pounding scenes. It can be brutal but I love the way a dystopian novel makes me ponder.

I received an ARC of After the Flood from HarperCollins for review. Many thanks!

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