6 things you need to know about The Year of the Flood

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The Year of the Flood is one of the five contenders for Canada Reads 2014. Canadian activist Stephen Lewis chose it as the book he will defend during the debates March 3-6 on CBC Radio, CBC Books and CBC-TV. 

If you haven't had time to read The Year of the Flood yet, never fear! The Canada Reads team is here to give you what you need to know about this book so you can head to that cocktail party (or, uh, book club -- we won't tell!) with confidence.

1. The flood is waterless


The flood in the book isn't technically a flood. It's a nameless and man-made epidemic that wipes out the human race. The details of the epidemic are murky but what's known is that it was caused in part by the environmental degradation inflicted by corporations. Two characters survive, but they survive isolated from each other.

2. The Year of the Flood tells the story of God's Gardeners

God's Gardeners-584.jpg

The Year of the Flood chronicles the flood from the perspective of God's Gardeners, an eco-cult led by a man named Adam One. They've started their community as a way to have an alternative lifestyle to the mainstream in a time of drastic climate change and corporatization of society. Instead of living a life working for the corporations that dominate the world, God's Gardeners live off the grid. They run organic rooftop gardens and forage for most of their food and put great value on the natural world. The God's Gardeners' belief system is a mix of many world religions and communal values.

3. It's the second book in the MaddAddam trilogy trilogy-584.jpg

The Year of the Flood expands on the story set up in Oryx and Crake. The books are set during the same time period, but they each tell the story from a different perspective. Instead of chronicling the epidemic from the point of view of the big corporations in the world, Atwood this time tells the story from the perspective of God's Gardeners who are on the fringe. Characters appear in all three books, but the beauty of the trilogy is that each book stands on its own.

4. The Year of the Flood is set in the near future nearfuture-584.jpg

The near future in Atwood's novel isn't a very pleasant place: the environment has been destroyed and the world is run by big corporations. If you don't find work with one of the corporations, you are left behind. The corporations are cult-like and omnipotent.

Atwood's future also has some similarities with the present. And while some people are evil, there are still many with compassion and empathy for humankind and the natural world. One major difference is that Atwood invents new species of animals, such as the liobam, which is a lion crossed with a lamb.

5. Ren, who was raised a God's Gardener, is one of the book's main charactersren-584.jpg

The majority of the plot unfolds through the perspective of two characters and their flashbacks. The first character is Ren, who was born during the year of the flood. She was raised in the God's Gardener community, and her mother was in a relationship with one of the community's leaders. After that relationship falls apart, Ren and her mother leave to return to Ren's biological father. She eventually becomes an exotic dancer at a club called Scales and Tails and it is here she is locked in a back room and survives the epidemic.

6. The second main character is Toby, one of God's Gardener's leadersToby-584.jpg

The second character is Toby. Toby's and Ren's stories intersect while they are both God's Gardeners. Toby accidentally becomes a God's Gardener when she is trying to escape a violent boss, but eventually she warms to their lifestyle and community. When she once again becomes threatened, she undergoes facial surgery to hide her identity and finds work at a spa. It's at the spa that she survives the big epidemic. At first she thinks she's the only one...

What you need to know about the Canada Reads contenders:


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