A fortifying affirmation of human endurance in the face of our dire climate prognosis.

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AFTER THE FLOOD

A woman braves a waterlogged world to find her daughter in this dystopian adventure novel.

More than a century in the future, when the coasts and the cities along them have been completely flooded and countries have been “cut to half their size” by the ocean, raider ships prowl the seas creating new colonies by separating families, seizing property, and brutally murdering anyone who resists. Myra and her younger daughter Pearl, however, are just trying to get by: They live on a boat and barter their fishing hauls at trading posts for valuable supplies. “I don’t join groups and I don’t care about resistance,” Myra tells a friend. She learns that her older daughter, Row, who was taken by Myra’s husband seven years prior when Nebraska finally flooded, might still be alive—but to reach her, she must make a treacherous voyage north to a raider colony known as the Valley near what used to be Greenland, an iceberg-dotted journey impossible in her too-small boat. But when Myra and Pearl join a ship called the Sedna, led by a charismatic but troubled man named Abran whose goal is to found a new settlement untouched by the violence of raiders, Myra suddenly faces a new set of problems she’s unaccustomed to handling. How can she justify changing the Sedna’s course for her own ends as the bonds she forms with the crew deepen? How can she fulfill her responsibilities to both her missing daughter and the daughter she still has? And can she manage to lay down her fundamental distrust in a world where everyone has his or her own objective? Debut novelist Montag manages to marry page-turning drama and emotional depth, vividly imagining a world where society rebuilds itself from scratch and history repeats, where bubonic plague flares up again and rope and sailcloth and antibiotics are all coveted goods, and where everyone is moving on in some way from insurmountable loss. “I keep thinking it feels like climbing a staircase while looking down,” one woman tells Myra about losing her children. “You won’t forget where you’ve been, but you’ve got to keep rising. It all gets further away, but it’s all still there”.

A fortifying affirmation of human endurance in the face of our dire climate prognosis.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-288936-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Suspenseful, full of incident, and not obviously necessary.

THE TESTAMENTS

Atwood goes back to Gilead.

The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), consistently regarded as a masterpiece of 20th-century literature, has gained new attention in recent years with the success of the Hulu series as well as fresh appreciation from readers who feel like this story has new relevance in America’s current political climate. Atwood herself has spoken about how news headlines have made her dystopian fiction seem eerily plausible, and it’s not difficult to imagine her wanting to revisit Gilead as the TV show has sped past where her narrative ended. Like the novel that preceded it, this sequel is presented as found documents—first-person accounts of life inside a misogynistic theocracy from three informants. There is Agnes Jemima, a girl who rejects the marriage her family arranges for her but still has faith in God and Gilead. There’s Daisy, who learns on her 16th birthday that her whole life has been a lie. And there's Aunt Lydia, the woman responsible for turning women into Handmaids. This approach gives readers insight into different aspects of life inside and outside Gilead, but it also leads to a book that sometimes feels overstuffed. The Handmaid’s Tale combined exquisite lyricism with a powerful sense of urgency, as if a thoughtful, perceptive woman was racing against time to give witness to her experience. That narrator hinted at more than she said; Atwood seemed to trust readers to fill in the gaps. This dynamic created an atmosphere of intimacy. However curious we might be about Gilead and the resistance operating outside that country, what we learn here is that what Atwood left unsaid in the first novel generated more horror and outrage than explicit detail can. And the more we get to know Agnes, Daisy, and Aunt Lydia, the less convincing they become. It’s hard, of course, to compete with a beloved classic, so maybe the best way to read this new book is to forget about The Handmaid’s Tale and enjoy it as an artful feminist thriller.

Suspenseful, full of incident, and not obviously necessary.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54378-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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A quiet tale that considers the way small, human connections can disrupt the callous powers of authority.

THE MEMORY POLICE

A novelist tries to adapt to her ever changing reality as her world slowly disappears.

Renowned Japanese author Ogawa (Revenge, 2013, etc.) opens her latest novel with what at first sounds like a sinister fairy tale told by a nameless mother to a nameless daughter: “Long ago, before you were born, there were many more things here…transparent things, fragrant things…fluttery ones, bright ones….It’s a shame that the people who live here haven’t been able to hold such marvelous things in their hearts and minds, but that’s just the way it is on this island.” But rather than a twisted bedtime story, this depiction captures the realities of life on the narrator's unnamed island. The small population awakens some mornings with all knowledge of objects as mundane as stamps, valuable as emeralds, omnipresent as birds, or delightful as roses missing from their minds. They then proceed to discard all physical traces of the idea that has disappeared—often burning the lifeless ones and releasing the natural ones to the elements. The authoritarian Memory Police oversee this process of loss and elimination. Viewing “anything that fails to vanish when they say it should [as] inconceivable,” they drop into homes for inspections, seizing objects and rounding up anyone who refuses—or is simply unable—to follow the rules. Although, at the outset, the plot feels quite Orwellian, Ogawa employs a quiet, poetic prose to capture the diverse (and often unexpected) emotions of the people left behind rather than of those tormented and imprisoned by brutal authorities. Small acts of rebellion—as modest as a birthday party—do not come out of a commitment to a greater cause but instead originate from her characters’ kinship with one another. Technical details about the disappearances remain intentionally vague. The author instead stays close to her protagonist’s emotions and the disorientation she and her neighbors struggle with each day. Passages from the narrator’s developing novel also offer fascinating glimpses into the way the changing world affects her unconscious mind.

A quiet tale that considers the way small, human connections can disrupt the callous powers of authority.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-101-87060-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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