The Year of the Flood is the second book in Margaret Atwood’s trilogy. It begins with a switch in character perspective. We are no longer following Jimmy, but instead the two new female narrators, Toby and Ren. We are introduced to these characters through both flashbacks and glimpses into the lives they are leading after the apocalypse.
Their stories start to intersect and merge when they both are folded into a cult-like group called the God’s Gardeners.
The God’s Gardeners are a religious sect whose belief system is comprised of religious practices and scientific theories. Part of this system is that they respect animals, and have effectively become vegetarian. At the center of their beliefs is that the world is coming to an end in the form of a reckoning that is similar to the biblical flood. The God’s Gardeners call this species-ending disaster the “Waterless Flood.” They believe that when it strikes they will be the only ones to survive. In this way, they consider themselves chosen. When Crake’s viral pandemic wipes out a majority of humankind, the Gardener’s view the prophecy of the Waterless Flood to have come true.
We find Toby in dire circumstances at the beginning of the novel. Toby’s parents died mysteriously, and she has had to live off the grid. She is forced to work at a fast-food restaurant, and her manager, Blanco, has forced her into an abusive relationship. This catapults into a situation wherein the God’s Gardeners have to save her from almost certain death. Toby adeptly climbs the sociopolitical ladder within the group and gains more responsibility as she does so. After some time with the Gardeners, she gains an official title. After she is privy to more of their secrets, a dangerous figure from her past appears – threatening her stability in the group. She is forced to leave, and work at a high-end spa. This is where she ends up when Crake’s epidemic strikes.
Ren’s mother brought Ren into the God’s Gardeners. She is very young when she leaves the compound that they originally lived in. As a consequence, Ren grows up indoctrinated under the God’s Gardeners rules and beliefs. Ren also brings a PleeBland girl named Amanda into the group. However, Ren’s mother takes her back to the compound when it is revealed that her “stepfather,” Zeb, has been cheating on her mother. Ren finally ends up at a brothel called Scales and Tails. She is trapped in a quarantine room as Crake’s epidemic ravages the streets around her.
The end of the book culminates in Toby and Ren meeting up at the high-end spa. Ren is traumatized by the events that she endured to reach Toby. Amanda, her friend from the God’s Gardeners, has been kidnapped. The novel ends with them deciding to find Amanda, and they leave the spa to look for survivors.
The Year of the Flood concentrates on how religions form around the apocalypse. It explores how a well-intentioned group can spiral and become cult-like if their leader is corrupt. The Year of the Flood also explores female relationships, and how women interact with and can help or hurt each other. The Year of the Flood is a fantastic sequel that lives up to its predecessor.