Margaret Atwood

The Year Of The Flood

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The Year Of The Flood Summary & Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 100-page guide for “The Year Of The Flood” by Margaret Atwood includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 78 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Sexual Objectification of Women as a Product of Social Inequality and Human Impact on the Environment and Climate Change.

The Year of the Flood (2009) is a speculative fiction novel by Margaret Atwood, an award-winning novelist, poet, literary critic, and environmental activist from Canada. Published after Oryx and Crake (2003), The Year of the Flood is the second book of the MaddAddam trilogy, followed by MaddAddam (2013). Exploring themes like human influence on the environment and the physical abuse and sexual objectification of women, The Year of the Flood brought Atwood great acclaim, particularly for her examination of the relationship between humans and the environment. It was longlisted for the 2011 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and shortlisted for the 2010 Trillium Book Award.

Plot Summary

The novel tells the story of Toby and Ren, two survivors of a devastating human-made plague, the long-feared Waterless Flood that obliterated most human life. As the novel’s main third-person narrators, they recount their present circumstances as well as their pasts. This fractured narrative foregrounds the reasons for the pandemic alongside the trials of those who survive the deadly virus. Ren, a young trapeze dancer, survives the pandemic by being locked in the Sticky Zone, a quarantine room in a high-end sex club called Scales and Tails. Toby isolates herself from the virus inside a luxurious spa called AnooYoo.

Like Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood begins just after the massive pandemic and then retrospectively describes the corrupt world that laid the foundation for it. Yet while the events of the first novel take place in the Compounds and its narrative centers on the elite scientific community, The Year of the Flood is set in poor neighborhoods called pleeblands, where violence and abuse are omnipresent. This is where Toby and Ren live, as they are both members of a religious group called the God’s Gardeners. The founder of the group, Adam One, is a charismatic leader who strongly supports the practice of nonviolent, ecologically oriented resistance to the cruel corporations causing environmental destruction. Each part opens with a sermon from Adam One that sheds light on the Gardeners’ religious doctrine and is followed by alternating stories from Toby and Ren’s lives.

When the novel opens, Toby is struggling to survive in the wake of the pandemic that destroyed almost all humanity. Isolated in the AnooYoo Spa, she tries to sustain herself by keeping a garden, but her efforts are jeopardized by pigoons, a breed of genetically modified pigs that have human brain tissue. At the same time, Ren is waiting for someone to open the Sticky Zone room she is in from the outside, and she passes time by reminiscing about her former life.

While both women are isolated and unaware of whether anyone else except them survived, readers learn more about their prepandemic lives. After her mother dies from a mysterious disease and her father commits suicide, Toby becomes orphaned and homeless. Desperate for a job, she begins to work at a mob-run restaurant chain called SecretBurger. There, she is repeatedly sexually and physically abused by her boss, Blanco. With nowhere to go, Toby suffers his abuses until a group of God’s Gardeners come to the restaurant and persuade Toby to leave with them. Although Toby is skeptical about the group and their teaching, she agrees to join their ranks to escape from her abuser. With time, she learns many survival skills from the Gardeners and not only becomes a respected member of the group but also earns the rank of Eve Six.

Two years after Toby joins the group, Ren becomes one of the Gardeners as well. Ren’s mother is dating Zeb, one of the group leaders. Since Ren is only a child when she is first brought to the Edencliff Rooftop Garden, the group’s main gathering place, she is indifferent to their beliefs and instead envies the children from the streets. She soon befriends Amanda, a girl she meets at a mall, and brings her to live with the Gardeners. They form a deep friendship but are soon separated, as after a fight with Zeb, Ren’s mother leaves the Gardeners and takes Ren with her to one of the corporate Compounds, hoping to reunite with her husband. There, Ren meets Jimmy, the main character of Oryx and Crake. She falls in love with him, but their relationship ends abruptly, and she is left broken-hearted. Ren’s mother manages to secure a spot for her at Martha Graham Academy, where Ren studies choreography. But after some time, her mother informs Ren that she won’t pay for Ren’s studies anymore, and Ren is forced to drop out of college to look for a job.

In the meantime, Toby’s peaceful life among the Gardeners is interrupted by Blanco, who seeks revenge on her for escaping from him. To protect her, the Gardeners decide to give her a new identity and send her to a clinic, where specialists change her skin tone, hair, eye shape and color, and voice. The Gardeners help Toby get a job as a manager at AnooYoo Spa. When Toby goes to a job fair at Martha Graham Academy, she runs into Ren, and although Ren doesn’t recognize Toby because of all the alterations made to her, she accepts Toby’s offer of work at the spa. After working with Toby for almost a year, Ren yearns to be more independent and starts working as a trapeze dancer at a strip club called Scales and Tails, while Toby remains at the spa and begins stashing away food in preparation for the Waterless Flood.

After some time, Zeb visits Toby and tells her that he has become a leader of a new group called MaddAddam, and many of the Gardeners have joined it. Among them is Crake—a man Toby once knew as Glenn—the man who created the deadly virus and kickstarted the plague.

Some Gardeners survive the pandemic, and Amanda rescues Ren, but the two women are abducted by three former prisoners, one of whom is Blanco. When they try to get to the AnooYoo Spa, Toby shoots one of the prisoners, and Ren runs away, but the other two take Amanda and flee. After Ren and Toby are reunited, in their search for food they run into the surviving members of MaddAddam, but they soon leave the group to look for Amanda.

After some time, they find not only Amanda and her two abductors but also Jimmy. After Ren, Toby, and Jimmy incapacitate the two men and free Amanda, they ponder their next move, but their considerations are interrupted by an approaching group of people. They are the Crakers, a new, genetically engineered species of humans developed by Crake. This ending echoes the ending of Oryx and Crake and lays the foundation for the third and final novel of the series, MaddAddam.

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Prologue