Olympian Shelley Watts shares the moment that changed her life. The road to the Olympics…
After the Flood was one of those captivating and affecting cli-fi novels that make you question how prepared you are for the end of the world.
Spoiler alert: for me, the answer is not very. I am in fact woefully ill-prepared for any kind of apocalyptic future.
I can’t read maps. I can’t forage flora or flay fauna. I can’t drive a manual car. I’ve only ever been camping once before in my life.
The Four Hoursemen of the Apocalypse better be towing a caravan filled with provisions and weapons when they arrive—otherwise I’m pretty well screwed.
Thankfully though, I can swim, which is at least one skill that would come in handy if Kassandra Montag’s predictions in After the Flood prove true. After the Flood is set in an indeterminate future after compounding floods have rendered all but the highest mountain peaks uninhabitable.
Most people (including our heroine, Myra) subsist on and off the water. They fish to feed themselves and live on a boat, built expertly by Myra’s grandfather in anticipation of the apocryphal aquatic situation, in which the world finds itself.
The apocalypse does not simply arise from ‘water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink’ (a thirst world problem). The apocalypse also features Raiders (unfortunately not the Canberran rugby team).
Raiders are modern pirates with even fewer scruples than the classic kind. The most infamous Raiders are the Lily Black, known for pillaging, plundering, murdering, raping and their rabbit-based neck tattoos.
The Lost Abbotts are another band of Raiders, more focused on creating colonies than causing casualties but not above doing the latter if it means the former. There are also traders and other settlers hoping for a better life off-water.
Myra, however, is largely used to sailing without a first mate. She is self-sufficient, an expert fisher and the sole guardian and protector of Pearl, her five-year-old daughter.
Although Pearl is competent beyond her years, particularly (bizarrely) at catching snakes, she is (understandably) naïve and (understandably) fearful of their ship sinking. She requires accordingly a fair amount of protection.
Myra’s attention is somewhat divided, however, as she is also driven to find her elder daughter, Row. Row has been missing for about two years after being abducted by her father. In Myra’s nightmares, she believes Row to be dead.
In her worst nightmares, she presumes Row is destined for a breeding ship. Myra discovers that Row may well be alive and living in a Raider colony in what used to be Greenland.
Sailing north requires a much bigger and sturdier boat than Myra has, not to mention a crew and time. Row’s age provides Myra with her deadline: Row is about thirteen and, once she begins to menstruate, she will be sent to a breeding ship. Myra’s obsession with finding Row does, at times, come at the expense of her relationship with her still-present and living daughter, Pearl.
After the Flood is about Myra’s internal tug of war: her determination to find Row, her need to protect Pearl. Her need to sacrifice her aloneness and the safety she believes comes with that to gather the resources and people she needs to help her find Row.
If this sounds to you like an incredibly powerful story, you’d be right. It is an incredibly powerful story and Kassandra Montag really, really tells it. As a reader, I felt myself fishily flailing like a cod caught in one of Myra’s nets.
I found the female focus of the characters’ struggles in this climate-changed future particularly affecting—from avoiding being used a resource for breeding to being neglected by a father and husband and being largely defenceless, to needing to convince more powerful men of a course of action to having your femaleness and your children used against you. I particularly loved Pearl’s quiet character arc. To me, she was the real heroine of this book.
In conclusion: if you’re looking for me in future, you’ll find me at the Canberra Yacht Club. I’ll be learning to sail, navigate and hopefully also fish. If the apocalypse ends up being drought-based, well, there was probably no hope for me anyway.
I gave After the Flood 4.5 out of 5 rabbit-based neck tattoos.
Many thanks to Harper Collins Australia for sending me a copy of this captivating book in exchange for my review.