Title: After The Flood
Author: Kassandra Montag
Genres: Dystopian, Post-Apocalyptic Fiction
My Rating: 5 STARS
A little more than a century from now, our world has been utterly transformed. After years of slowly overtaking the continent, rising floodwaters have obliterated America’s great coastal cities and then its heartland, leaving nothing but an archipelago of mountaintop colonies surrounded by a deep expanse of open water.
Stubbornly independent Myra and her precocious seven-year-old daughter, Pearl, fish from their small boat, the Bird, visiting dry land only to trade for supplies and information in the few remaining outposts of civilization. For seven years, Myra has grieved the loss of her oldest daughter, Row, who was stolen by her father after a monstrous deluge overtook their home in Nebraska. Then, in a violent confrontation with a stranger, Myra suddenly discovers that Row was last seen in a far-off encampment near the Artic Circle. Throwing aside her usual caution, Myra and Pearl embark on a perilous voyage into the icy northern seas, hoping against hope that Row will still be there.
On their journey, Myra and Pearl join forces with a larger ship and Myra finds herself bonding with her fellow seekers who hope to build a safe haven together in this dangerous new world. But secrets, lust, and betrayals threaten their dream, and after their fortunes take a shocking—and bloody—turn, Myra can no longer ignore the question of whether saving Row is worth endangering Pearl and her fellow travelers.
“Children think we make them, but we don’t. They exist somewhere else, before us, before time. They come into the world and make us. They make us by breaking us first.”
After sitting on this review for a couple of days, I realize I’m no closer to finding the proper words to describe how much I adore Kassandra Montag‘s debut novel, After the Flood. I’m basking in the afterglow of emotion the narrative provides, and while I feel this novel will find a level of appreciation highest among mothers, the fast-paced plot captures the attention of anyone willing to give this story a shot. The book is completely different than any other post-apocalyptic fiction I’ve read to date, yet I did receive the same sense of growing dread and compulsive page turning as experienced upon reading Bird Box, but where the latter is more of a creepy, almost horror story, After the Flood lends itself to a deeper level of character exposition, without skimping on the thrilling action scenes.
“Before the Six Year Flood, earthquakes erupted and tsunamis struck constantly. The ground itself seemed heavy with energy. I’d hold out my hand and feel the heat in the air like the pulse of an invisible animal. On the radio we heard rumors that the seafloor had split, water from within the earth seeping into the ocean. But we never knew for certain what happened, only that the water rose around us as if to swallow us up in a watery grave.”
At heart, After the Flood is a tale about grief, a mother’s love, and how that love will drive a woman to sail to the ends of the earth to find her lost child. We meet a colorful, diverse cast along the way, and I respect how Montag chooses to show how, if our world flooded and we lost 95% of land mass, we would all be equalized in our desperation for survival. The dynamics are ever-changing as Myra and Pearl float from one group to another, and the front seat view we receive into Myra’s downward spiral is an interesting case study on what happens to our moral compass once we lose the structure of society as we know it.
“There were times I didn’t even want to be a mother,” I whispered. I squeezed my eyes shut and felt a hollow ache in my bones. “I didn’t want to be responsible for other lives. There were times I wished them away.”
I had feared losing them, but there were moments that desire lurked right at the edge of that fear. Set loose from them, I could give up, I told myself. I could slip away into the water, no longer fighting, no longer pretending to be strong.”
Obviously the events of After the Flood portray an extreme end of the world scenario of biblical proportions, but I found that the truths that Myra learns along this devastating journey are the same ones that you and I can apply in the real world. Parenting can simultaneously be the greatest joy and the heaviest burden upon those who choose to become caregivers, and the portrayal of the level of responsibility that is present for the remainder of your life is given much consideration here. As a person who has struggled with anxiety for as long as I can remember, becoming a parent was a mixed bag of feelings, and I wholly appreciate the author showing what a delicate balance this job requires. I highly recommend this book to fans of suspenseful literary fiction, and while it’s a little heavier on the suspense than it is the literary aspects, there are enough deep, thought-provoking moments that are sure to satisfy even the pickiest of readers.
*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my review copy.