In the midst of giving birth to her first baby, a London woman experiences a submergence of two kinds: the complete sensory inundation that follows childbirth, and the catastrophic flood of water that begins to drown her city and nation. She, her newborn and her husband join an exodus of humanity leaving the “Gulp zone” to seek higher ground and safer places. But the illusion of security and safety begins to crumble at each stop along their refugee journey. Family members disappear, allegiances with strangers form and dissolve, government fails, and the waters continue to rise.
With the sparest of prose, debut author Megan Hunter creates a riveting story told by a mother navigating a monumental catastrophe with the most fragile of life carried at her breast. The narrator’s scope of perception is honed to a narrow, singular focus on her child. From the smell of the baby’s ear to his latch on her breast, every aspect is defined with clarity. Her awareness expands to encompass allies, but lightly. The rest of the fumbling, drowning world encroaches only on the filmy edges of her sphere.
Building on our natural fear of the unknown, Hunter leaves unspoken much of what’s truly haunting in the tale—but the rising horrors of civilization’s breakdown are perceived nonetheless. Looting, murder, robbery and abandonment flow just beneath the surface of this spare volume. The observations that remain are beautiful, visceral and fluid. Amniotic waters, flooded streets, breast milk, tears, drool and oceans all flow in and out of the liquid prose within.
In the wake of recent weather crises and flooding around the globe, Hunter’s writing on the human impact of climate change charges this slim poetic work of fiction with powerful dystopian weight. From refuge to redemption, from retreat to recovery, The End We Start From is an exquisite paean to how we come back from the times that challenge us all.