The Year of the Flood
Billed by Margaret Atwood as a "simultanial" to Oryx and Crake (2003), her thirteenth novel The Year of the Flood (2009) is set in the same near-future universe. It covers roughly the same time-span, features some of the same characters (although now in minor roles), and its conclusion joins up with that of Oryx and Crake. The novel also employs a similar narrative pattern: it opens with a description of the situation of its two protagonists, Toby and Ren, in the post-apocalyptic present; their story is then unfolded in a sequence of flashbacks. Sexually victimized and economically exploited, both women become associated with God's Gardeners, a small millenarian sect whose teachings combine Christian natural theology (See Philosophy: History Before 1950) with ideas from deep ecology and evolutionary biology. Each of the novel's fourteen chapters, with the exception of the first, is prefaced with a sermon by the group's leader, Adam One, and a religious hymn. These texts not only lay out the Gardener's eccentric theology. They also give the reader a sense of how this belief system helps its adherents to go on with their lives even as they are increasingly affected by the mounting social and environmental disorder. The sect itself is first driven underground by corporations, then riven by a schism, and finally wiped out almost completely by Crake's plague. Atwood's sardonic humour is unsparing in her treatment of the Gardeners; nevertheless, their way of life is shown to rest on a sound assessment of human imperfection, and to foster compassion and appreciation for beauty. The end of the novel, where the few dispersed survivors find each other and begin to rebuild their community, strikes a hopeful note.
The launch of the novel marked a new level in Atwood's public advocacy for environmentalist issues. In the book tour for The Year of the Flood, Atwood combined her readings with public performances of the God's Gardeners' hymns and sermons, conducted by local artists who had been provided with scripts and scores in advance. Several of these events were recorded in the documentary In the Wake of the Flood by Toronto filmmaker Ron Mann. The Year of the Flood was longlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and shortlisted for the Trillium Book Award.