Book Review: After the Flood by Kassandra Montag
Author: Kassandra Montag
Publisher: William Morrow
Publish Date: September 3, 2019
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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 Arctic 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.
A compulsively readable novel of dark despair and soaring hope, After the Flood is a magnificent, action packed, and sometimes frightening odyssey laced with wonder–an affecting and wholly original saga both redemptive and astonishing.
Just over 100 years from now, global warming has transformed Earth into a water world. Transportation is by boat and there are few places where one can step on dry land. Myra and her daughter, Pearl, fish on their small boat and only visit land to trade for supplies. Seven years have passed and Myra continues to grieve the loss of her firstborn daughter, Row, whom her husband stole. Outwardly, Myra has finally given up on finding Row. But when she unexpectedly learns that Row was seen at an outpost near the Arctic Circle, she and Pearl embark on a journey to find Row. Along the way they join up with the crew of a larger ship and Myra sees this as her best chance to make it to the Arctic. However, when their luck begins to change, Myra wonders if saving Row is the right choice at the expense of Pearl and the crew she’s grown so fond of.
After the Flood is a story about loss, grit, survivorship, and motherhood. It’s also about learning to trust again in a world where trusting others usually leads to one’s misfortune. Though I have a morbid fascination for fictional, post-apocalyptic content, I don’t actually read or watch a lot of it. This book has been on my reading list for a while. I read it after reading An Enchantment of Ravens, so it was a nice change of pace from the fantasy genre.
Right away this book reminded me a lot of the 1995 movie Waterworld. Water is everywhere, land is few and far between, and boat gangs take advantage of and terrorize those who are just trying to survive. I don’t know if that movie inspired this book, but there are a lot of similarities. I say this matter-of-factly, not because I think it’s a bad thing. In fact, I really liked this book.
The author’s writing is wonderful and the first lines really drew me in. There are quite a few quotable lines. If I was a better book reviewer, I would’ve taken notes to share them with you; but I’m not, so have fun picking out your favorite lines! Montag does a great job developing the characters, even the minor ones. Each person has a story and Montag relays each story organically, through conversation (of course) and reactions wrought from unfortunate circumstances.
Montag shows rather than tells the reader what’s going on, which helped me connect more with the characters. I could really feel how torn Myra is between fulfilling that ache to find Row, but also wondering how much that quest would endanger Pearl. I could see how perceptive Row is for her age. Though Row doesn’t express her perceptiveness verbally, the author shows the reader this through Row’s confidence, experience, and emotional outbursts.
Montag also explores the nuanced thinking and emotions of the characters in this harsh water world. She covers survivor’s guilt, turning a blind eye, and survivorship. And though the characters may not always make the choices we want them to, I understand their decisions. When trying to survive and navigate in a world with few resources and the collapse of civilization, expect to make tough choices.
Content warnings: murder, mention of rape, drowning, death, sex, abandonment
Reading format: Library hardback