"People have started to leave, packing their bags quietly, as though no one will notice. This should mean more for us, but others arrive daily, filling the shelters with their breath and pains." ~ Megan Hunter
This book was sent to me from the lovely folks over at Grove Atlantic . It is only 134 pages but probably one of the most beautifully written stories I've read in a long time. The story itself it not an unfamiliar one. It's a story of a personal account of life after a catastrophe, but the way Hunter writes it in such a unique poetic way kept me transfixed on every word which was a complete surprise.
In the midst of a mysterious environmental crisis, as London is submerged below flood waters, a woman gives birth to her first child, Z. Days later, the family are forced to leave their home in search of safety. As they move from place to place, shelter to shelter, their journey traces both fear and wonder as Z's small fists grasp at the things he sees, as he grows and stretches, thriving and content against all the odds.
This is a story of new motherhood in a terrifying setting: a familiar world made dangerous and unstable, its people forced to become refugees. Startlingly beautiful, Megan Hunter's The End We Start From is a gripping novel that paints an imagined future as realistic as it is frightening. And yet, though the country is falling apart around them, this family’s world – of new life and new hope – sings with love.
Typically after I finish a book I never head over to Goodreads to see what others rated it, but because this is such an unusually written dystopian novella, I was curious about what others had to say. Interesting enough, what most didn't like about this book I loved. Sparse and note-like were terms I saw frequently used to describe this book. Some readers didn't like that Hunter used only letters instead of full names to identify her characters. For me, all of these elements made this story a very unorthodox written literary tale and kudos to Hunter for taking such a leap in telling a post apocalyptic tale with such alluring prose.
This book starts with a nameless woman, the main character, giving birth to a baby and subsequently caring for this child, Z, as London is almost swept away by the deluge. Hunter evocatively writes this woman's struggles with being a mother during this time; breast feeding, what seems to be postpartum depression, connecting with her baby and connecting with the other mother's that she encounters along her journey to safety and refuge. This book does read as if the main character is jotting metrical notes in a journal about what has happened. It's spotty in a way, but I think it's an accurate way for this story to be told considering the circumstances. If I were in the middle of a post apocalyptic world chronicling what was happening, what I write would certainly be broken and sparse and emotional.
I thought her relationship with R, her husband, was interesting. His thoughts were more about keeping his family safe so he left to find safety and security. The main character often reflected frustration about caring for Z alone, but also understood what her husband needed to do and she thought about him constantly. "I see R's face in the following objects: empty drink cans, rain splash on river, the heads of spoons." In the end he found safety for his family as Z continued to grow and develop unaware of the chaos around him.
This book was quick and scanty but fully packed at the same time. I implore you to go into this novella with an open mind. It is not written in the style you may be used to dystopians being written in, but it is so lyrical. I cry. I finished in an hour or so. If you loved Station Eleven or The Earthseed Series you will love this.
My Rating 4/5