After the Flood (Book Review)
by Kassandra Montag
5 / 5 Stars
Science Fiction - Post-Apocalyptic
As it’s a new year I’m going to approach book reviews a little differently. Rather than deciding rather arbitrarily on a star rating, I’ve made a chart! It’s also a tracking chart. At the end of the year, I’ll assess its strengths and weaknesses. Basically, I'm reviewing based on 6 categories and I'll decide the stars based on how many points the book gets. I might do a blog post about this at some point.
Anyway, After the Flood is well-written, poignant, emotionally fraught, exciting, and approaches an overdone theme in a refreshing way that I very much appreciated.
Related to the latter, this is a book that I would still have enjoyed before I had kids but definitely resonates more strongly with me now that I have two daughters. That’s not to say that you need to have kids to understand Myra (the main character’s) motivations, but it helps the story have emotional relevance if you do have children in your life in some respect. As to what I mean by an overdone theme, there are a lot of stories about women and motherhood. Despite being a mother myself, I find the theme often eye-rollingly hyperbolic, full of characters that have literally no life aside from their children. I’m thinking of the one I read back in 2018 called Wild Kingdom; in that one, the mother is one of those all-absorbed mothers who get no characterization other than her love of a child. We aren’t just our children. Myra is not like this. She’s a mother, yes, but she has other facets of her personality, other interests. She’s still a sexual person, she’s fierce, protective, a natural leader, quick-thinking, determined, and resourceful. (In truth, she reminds me of Delia, the main character in my own novel - maybe that’s why I liked her so much). True, she lies and she is a bit cold, but I found her extremely compelling and realistic. She plays to her strengths: she doesn’t use guns, because she’s stronger with a knife, and when she goes on the offensive, she takes out the more physically intimidating opponents first. She also has a tragic backstory that helps to explain her choices. I read a few Goodreads reviews that say she treats Pearl terribly, which I completely disagree with. She’s under a lot of pressure. She makes mistakes regarding Pearl, but she’s never abusive or overly harsh with her. Hell, I’ve made tons of mistakes with my toddler; I can’t imagine having to mother her in Myra’s situation.
I also loved how we’re not given the reason for Jacob’s theft and abandonment, but he’s not vilified entirely; their relationship was not sunshine and rainbows, but Myra had ignored those aspects in order to motivate herself further. Which, again, felt realistic.
I also liked the pacing. Myra is driven to her destination, but it’s not one of those “we need to get there in two days” situations. It takes her weeks to even get going, but she never stops working towards her goal. It also allowed for a gradual build of relationships, like between Myra and Marjen.
The latter’s backstory is heartbreaking - I actually teared up. I think it makes sense that we don’t get to learn a lot about the other characters, as Myra distances herself from them, but I do think we could have gotten a bit more. I forgot Thomas was even a character until the end.
There were so many awesome moments. The part about the snakes was fantastic. Anything to do with the ship in peril was enthralling. I do enjoy novels about boats.
There was a reasonable amount of diversity. Pearl is half Latinx and there were other characters who were people of colour. Physical appearance wasn’t described very often, so other characters could have been non-white too.
The setting was great. I was like, “Waterworld, really?” at the start, but it grew on me. I loved how we didn’t get an exposition dump but learned as we went how the world started going down the tubes. Myra’s experiences regarding the gradual decline of society were informative without belabouring it. I could have used a bit more blame placed on human action, but, really, how else would it have happened?
This was a fantastic book to start off the year, as it was fantastic. Highly recommended for anyone who loves post-apocalyptic literature.
(The only thing I didn’t like was that Pearl and Row’s names were water-related. That seems a bit much.)