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1 Beaverton Literature- A to Z

The Year of the Flood


The Year of the Flood Cover

ISBN13: 9780385528771
ISBN10: 0385528779
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Reading Group Guide

1. How does the friendship between Amanda and Ren grow, despite their differences and the restrictions they face? They meet as children. Who was your greatest ally when you were that age? What do you think of Ren's treatment of Bernice?

2. What survival skills do the novel's female characters possess? Do they find security or vulnerability at Scales and Tales, the AnooYoo Spa, and within the community of Gardeners? What strength does Pilar find in nature, while Lucerne is drawn to artificial beauty?

3. How do Adam One's motivations compare to Zeb's? In their world, what advantages do men have? Are they really “advantages”?

4. Discuss Toby's parents and their fate. What does their story illustrate about the dangers of an unregulated and corrupt drug industry? What motivates Toby to become a healer?

5. How does Adam One's explanation of creation and the fall of humanity compare to more standard Judeo-Christian ideas? What does he offer his followers, beyond an understanding of the planet and the creatures that inhabit it?

6. Discuss the father figures in Ren's life: her stepfather, Zeb; her biological father, Frank; and eventually Mordis. What did they teach her about being a woman? How did they shape her expectations of Jimmy?

7. As a refugee from Texas, Amanda is an outsider, facing constant risk. Would you have harbored her? Why is Ren so impressed by her?

8. What is the result of a penal system like Painball? How does it influence the citizens' attitude toward crime?

9. Should Toby have honored Pilar's deathbed wish that she become an Eve? How did the lessons in beekeeping serve Toby in other ways as well?

10. Crake's BlyssPlus pill offers many false promises. What are they, and what was Crake really striving for (chapter 73)? If human beings are the greatest problem for the natural world, could they also provide solutions less drastic than Crake's? How?

11. In what ways do the novel's three voices—Toby's, Ren's, and Adam One's—complement one another? What unique perspective is offered in each narration?

12. Explore the lyrics from The God's Gardeners Oral Hymnbook. What do they say about the Gardener theology and the nature of their faith? Adam One does not always tell the truth to his congregation. Is well-meant lying ever acceptable?

13. Margaret Atwood's fiction often displays “gallows humor.” Can a thing be dire and funny at the same time? Must we laugh or die?

14. The Year of the Flood covers the same time period as Oryx and Crake, and contains a number of the same characters — (“Snowman,” a student at the Martha Graham Academy and “the last man on earth”) and Glenn (“Crake,” who studied at the Watson-Crick Institute), as well as Bernice, Jimmy's hostile college room-mate, Amanda, a live-in artist girlfriend, Ren (“Brenda,”) whom he remembers briefly in Oryx and Crake as a high-school fling, Jimmy's mother, who runs away to become an activist, and the God's Gardeners, whom he mentions as a fringe green cult. Re-read the final pages of both books. What do you predict for the remaining characters? Should the Gardeners execute the Painballers? Why? Why not? Would you?

15. What parallels did you see between The Year of the Flood and current headlines?

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The Lost Entwife, August 26, 2013 (view all comments by The Lost Entwife)
A good novel dealing with a theme of dystopia should have elements of truth that make what the reader is experiencing in the pages something that is not that far out of reach. Forget about the exaggerations and complicated science that the common reader won't understand - instead, speak to something that they know. Incorporate hymns, familiar passages of religious text, and expand on the desires of people who are living in the real world, here and now.

Then twist it all into something so scary it shocks that same reader into thinking, "Oh my ... this COULD happen."

That's good dystopia. And Margaret Atwood captures all of that perfectly in The Year of the Flood, a follow-up companion novel to her brilliant Oryx and Crake. Switching gear from Snowman-Jimmy and the Crakers, Atwood moves to study the lives of God's Gardeners, a cultish group of people who are clinging to the organic, natural way of life.

I really struggled at times with this book because I felt as if the God's Gardeners should be people I should be afraid of - a cult that twists and perverts religion much like those portrayed in the news today. But yet, I could not disagree with their fundamental beliefs because I hated what was happening in the world around them and its similarities to our world today. And that inner struggle as I read is what made me love this book so much. I had to think about what it was I disliked, what made me uncomfortable, and what exactly I agreed with and then pinpoint where things went wrong in the book and where they went right.

And that, folks, is why Margaret Atwood is one of my favorite authors. I love reading a book that makes me work and, when I finish, leaves me mentally exhausted.

The conclusion to this trilogy is due out soon, so I re-read Oryx and Crake and read The Year of the Flood for the first time in preparation for the release of MaddAddam. You can bet I am looking forward to the conclusion and dreading it at the same time because what else could I look forward to with as much eager anticipation and dread!
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kstrong_74, January 2, 2011 (view all comments by kstrong_74)
I'm not the type of person who can join a book club. I don't enjoy enough books, or read often enough to keep up. However, if Margaret Atwood were to continuously write the Oryx and Crake series I would start a club myself. The Year of the Flood is a fabulous follow-up to Oryx and Crake. I grabbed this book the second I saw it on the book shelf, and read it within days.
Seeing the characters from a different point of view only made the story more believable and kept me longing for more.
I cannot wait until book #3 comes out.
If you have not started this series, and are a fan of Handmaids Tale, grab both Oryx and Crake, and The Year of the Flood now. You will not be disappointed.
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Shoshana, May 31, 2010 (view all comments by Shoshana)
A dystopian "sidequel" to Oryx and Crake; that is, it recounts others' lives and actions that are parallel to (or intersect with) those of Snowman and Crake. While not as lyrical as the first book, it's still engaging, with vivid descriptions and lively characters. It takes the reader to the point at which Oryx and Crake ended, and a little farther. Although I found Snowman to be a frightened, passive schmuck in the first book, this was important to the joke of the narrative, to the extent that the climax could be a joke. Here, Snowman seems simply pathetic and confused, though arguably this is due to his delirium. The protagonists' stories are more intimate but seem less important and I found the book overall to be less engaging. This troubles me given that the first book was the men's experiences, while this one was the women's. Overall, the narrative seemed to fill in more details rather than add new, significant plot elements.

Reviews by Jeanette Winterson and Ursula Le Guin that were published in major newspapers included surprisingly big errors or misunderstandings of Atwood's plots. If these were poor writers or reviewers not familiar with speculative fiction I'd leave it alone, but with such luminaries behind the misrepresentations, I was troubled.
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Product Details

Atwood, Margaret
Nan A. Talese
Science fiction
Literature-A to Z
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
9.38x6.64x1.44 in. 1.63 lbs.

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Featured Titles » Morning News Tournament » Tournament of Books 2010
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
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The Year of the Flood Used Hardcover
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$6.95 In Stock
Product details 448 pages Nan A. Talese - English 9780385528771 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

A companion novel to Atwood's magnificent Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood conveys a very different perspective of the coming dystopian catastrophe. Darkly funny, incredibly believable, and surprisingly hopeful, Atwood's new novel is one of her very best.

"Staff Pick" by ,

Margaret Atwood's haunting companion to Oryx and Crake will leave you hungry for another book in this "speculative fiction" universe. Written in the alternating voices of young and initially naive Ren and nostalgic but wounded Toby, the novel explores themes of ecology, disaster, relationships, and religion in a world that feels eerily familiar. Unlike Oryx and Crake, this story is told solely from the perspective of women. Atwood's fascinating prose marvelously explores social issues and human nature.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "In her 2002 speculative novel, Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood depicted a dystopic planet tumbling toward apocalypse. The world she envisaged was in the throes of catastrophic climate change, its wealthy inhabitants dwelling in sterile secure compounds, its poor ones in the dangerous 'pleeblands' of decaying inner cities. Mass extinctions had taken place, while genetic experiments had populated the planet with strange new breeds of animal: liobams, Mo'Hairs, rakunks. At the end of the book, we left its central character, Jimmy, in the aftermath of a devastating man-made plague, as he wondered whether to befriend or attack a ragged band of strangers. The novel seemed complete, closing on a moment of suspense, as though Atwood was content simply to hint at the direction life would now take. In her profoundly imagined new book, The Year of the Flood, she revisits that same world and its catastrophe. Like Oryx and Crake, Year of the Flood begins just after the catastrophe and then tracks back in time over the corrupt and degenerate world that preceded it. But while the first novel focused on the privileged elite in the compounds and the morally bankrupt corporations, The Year of the Flood depicts more of the world of the pleebs, an edgy no-man's land inhabited by criminals, sex workers, dropouts and the few individuals who are trying to resist the grip of the corporations.The novel centers on the lives of Ren and Toby, female members of a fundamentalist sect of Christian environmentalists, the God's Gardeners. Led by the charismatic Adam One, whose sermons and eco-hymns punctuate the narrative, the God's Gardeners are preparing for life after the prophesied Waterless Flood. Atwood plays some of their religion for laughs: their hymns have a comically bouncing, churchy rhythm, and we learn that both Ren and Toby have been drawn toward the sect for nonreligious reasons. Yet the gentleness and benignity of the Gardeners is a source of hope as well as humor. As absurd as some of their beliefs appear, Atwood seems to be suggesting that they're a better option than the naked materialism of the corporations.This is a gutsy and expansive novel, rich with ideas and conceits, but overall it's more optimistic than Oryx and Crake. Its characters have a compassion and energy lacking in Jimmy, the wounded and floating lothario at the previous novel's center.Each novel can be enjoyed independently of the other, but what's perhaps most impressive is the degree of connection between them. Together, they form halves of a single epic. Characters intersect. Plots overlap. Even the tiniest details tessellate into an intricate whole. In the final pages, we catch up with Jimmy once more, as he waits to encounter the strangers. This time around, Atwood commits herself to a dramatic and hopeful denouement that's in keeping with this novel's spirit of redemption.

Signature Reviewe by Marcel Theroux. Marcel Theroux's most recent novel, Far North, was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in June." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

"Review A Day" by , "Is it possible to prevent a planet-scale ecocatastrophe? What would the consequences of preventing such an event be? Would those consequences be acceptable? Iconic Canadian author Margaret Atwood has once again written about a distressingly near future in which mass murder may be the best way to save the world." (read the entire Ms. Magazine review)
"Review" by , "Atwood's mischievous, suspenseful, and sagacious dystopian novel follows the trajectory of current environmental debacles to a shattering possible conclusion with passionate concern and arch humor."
"Review" by , "Another stimulating dystopia from this always-provocative author, whose complex, deeply involving characters inhabit a bizarre yet frighteningly believable future."
"Review" by , "Another win for Atwood, this dystopian fantasy belongs in the hands of every highbrow sf aficionado and anyone else who claims to possess a social conscience."
"Synopsis" by , The long-awaited new novel from the author of The Handmaid's Tale and The Blind Assassin, The Year of the Flood is a dystopic masterpiece and a testament to Atwood's visionary power.
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