Margaret Atwood: The Year of the Flood

The Year of the Flood, a speculative fiction novel by Margaret Atwood, is the second installment in the MaddAddam Trilogy, following the critically acclaimed Oryx and Crake. The story is set in a dystopian future ravaged by environmental collapse, corporate greed, and rampant genetic engineering. Through its vividly imagined world and richly drawn characters, the novel explores themes of survival, environmental degradation, and the potential consequences of unchecked technological advancement.


number of pages: 448
literary movement: POSTMODERNISM
1st edition: 2009


The Year of the Flood follows the lives of two women, Toby and Ren, who have both managed to survive the global pandemic known as the Waterless Flood, which has wiped out most of humanity. Toby, a former member of the eco-religious group called the God’s Gardeners, has taken refuge in a high-end spa, while Ren, a trapeze artist and sex worker, is trapped inside a quarantined gentlemen’s club called Scales and Tails. As they struggle to survive in the harsh new world, they are haunted by memories of their past lives and the people they have lost.

Throughout the novel, Atwood interweaves the present-day narrative with flashbacks to the characters’ lives before the pandemic, revealing the events that led them to their current circumstances. These flashbacks provide insight into the God’s Gardeners, a group dedicated to preserving plant and animal species and living in harmony with the environment. The group is led by the enigmatic and charismatic Adam One, who preaches about the coming of the Waterless Flood and the need to prepare for it.

As the story unfolds, Toby and Ren’s paths eventually converge, and they are drawn into a dangerous quest to rescue the remaining survivors and uncover the truth about the pandemic’s origins. Along the way, they encounter a variety of characters, both human and genetically engineered, that challenge their understanding of the world and force them to confront the consequences of humanity’s hubris.

The Year of the Flood is notable for its rich and imaginative world-building, as Atwood skillfully blends elements of science fiction and environmentalism to create a vivid and unsettling vision of the future. The novel’s exploration of the potential consequences of unchecked technological advancement and environmental degradation serves as a stark warning about the fragile state of our planet and the need for greater stewardship and responsibility.



1st book – Oryx and Crake
2nd book – The Year of the Flood
3rd book – MaddAddam



A former member of God’s Gardeners, Toby is a strong and resourceful woman. She worked at a SecretBurgers restaurant before joining the religious group. After the global pandemic, she becomes a survivalist, using her knowledge of plants and herbs to stay alive.


Another central character, Ren is a young woman who was raised in the God’s Gardeners community. She later becomes a trapeze dancer at a high-end sex club called Scales and Tails. After the pandemic, she survives by staying locked in the club’s quarantine room.

Adam One

The spiritual leader of God’s Gardeners, Adam One preaches about living in harmony with nature and the importance of preserving the Earth. He delivers sermons and writes hymns that are interspersed throughout the novel.


A prominent member of God’s Gardeners, Zeb is skilled in technology and has a mysterious past. He serves as a mentor to both Toby and Ren and is involved in several subversive activities against the corporations.

Amanda Payne

Ren’s best friend from childhood, Amanda is an artist who uses found materials to create her works. After leaving the God’s Gardeners, she lives as a scavenger and becomes involved with a group of outlaws.


A violent and dangerous man, Blanco was once part of the God’s Gardeners but was expelled due to his criminal tendencies. He later becomes a threat to the main characters as they navigate the post-apocalyptic world.

Jimmy (Snowman)

A character who also appears in Oryx and Crake, Jimmy is a friend of Ren’s and becomes involved in her story during the events of The Year of the Flood.


A loyal and protective member of God’s Gardeners, Oates is close to Toby and plays a significant role in her survival.


Known as the Mushroom Woman, Pilar is an expert in fungi and medicinal plants. She serves as a mentor to Toby and is a respected member of the God’s Gardeners.


Ren’s mother, Lucerne, leaves her corporate lifestyle to join the God’s Gardeners with her daughter. However, she struggles to adapt to their way of life and eventually abandons the group.

These characters contribute to the rich narrative of The Year of the Flood, offering a variety of perspectives on life in a dystopian world and the challenges faced by those who seek to resist the forces of greed and destruction.

What am I living for and what am I dying for are the same question.



  • Dystopian Setting: The novel is set in a dystopian future where corporations have taken over the world and the environment is in severe decline due to human exploitation.
  • Non-linear Narrative: Atwood tells the story through a non-linear narrative, alternating between the past and the present, to unfold the events leading up to and following a global pandemic.
  • God’s Gardeners: The book focuses on the religious group called God’s Gardeners, who attempt to live in harmony with nature and oppose the destructive forces of the ruling corporations.
  • Two Main Characters: The novel primarily follows two women, Toby and Ren, as they navigate the post-apocalyptic world and reflect on their past lives within the God’s Gardeners community.
  • Themes: The book explores themes of survival, environmentalism, corporate greed, and the resilience of the human spirit.
  • Hymns and Sermons: The narrative is interspersed with hymns and sermons from the God’s Gardeners’ leader, Adam One, which provide insight into their beliefs and practices.
  • Connection to Oryx and Crake: The Year of the Flood runs parallel to the events of Atwood’s previous novel, Oryx and Crake, and features some of the same characters.
  • Genetic Engineering: The novel explores the consequences of genetic engineering, including the creation of hybrid animals and the manipulation of human genes for profit.
  • Female Perspective: Atwood emphasizes the experiences and perspectives of her female protagonists, providing a feminist lens through which to view the dystopian world.
  • Hope and Resilience: Despite the bleak setting, The Year of the Flood offers a sense of hope and resilience as characters attempt to rebuild their lives and create a more sustainable future.

In conclusion, The Year of the Flood is a thought-provoking and engrossing speculative fiction novel that explores themes of survival, environmental degradation, and the consequences of unchecked technological advancement in a vividly imagined dystopian world. With its richly drawn characters, engaging narrative, and timely exploration of pressing environmental issues, the novel serves as both a compelling work of fiction and a powerful cautionary tale about the future of our planet.



Margaret Atwood is a renowned Canadian author, poet, literary critic, and environmental activist. With a career spanning over five decades, she has written numerous novels, short stories, and essays that have been translated into more than 40 languages. Atwood is best known for her speculative fiction works, which often explore themes of feminism, social and political critique, and environmentalism.


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