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Excerpt from The End of the Ocean by Maja Lunde, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The End of the Ocean

by Maja Lunde

The End of the Ocean by Maja Lunde X
The End of the Ocean by Maja Lunde
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  • Published:
    Jan 2020, 304 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Elisabeth Herschbach
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Print Excerpt

"What are they crying about?" Anna said. "They have all the water in the world!"

Where we lived we had only the salty sea, which was rising. That and the drought. That was our flood. Relentless.

At first it was called the two-year drought, then four. This was the fifth year. The summer seemed to be without end.

People had started leaving Argelès back in the autumn of last year, but we stayed put. I had a job to attend to; I couldn't leave it, the run-down old desalination plant that converted the sea into fresh water.

But the power came and went, the stores were emptied of food staples, and the city became emptier, quieter. And hotter. the drier the earth became, the hotter the air. Previously the sun had applied its forces to evaporation. When there was no longer any moisture on the earth, we became the sun's target.

Every day Anna talked about how we should leave. First straight up north, while it was still possible, before everyone closed the borders. Then she talked about different camps. Pamiers, Gimont, Castres. This one near Timbaut was the last.

As she talked, the temperature rose. Refugees from even farther south passed through our city, stayed a few days, traveled on. But we stayed.

I stood there with the pen in my hand. Where were we headed?

I couldn't answer this by myself. I had to find Anna and August first.

The man behind us in the line bumped into us but didn't seem to notice. He was tiny and shriveled, as if he didn't fill out his own flesh. There was a dirty bandage around one of his hands.

The guard quickly stapled the green form into his passport. The man accepted it without another word. He already had a pen in his hand and stepped aside to write.

It was my turn again. I gave the guard the passports and the forms with the ten pieces of information that were supposed to be everything he needed to know about Lou and me.

The guard pointed to the item at the bottom. "And here?"

"We haven't decided yet. I have to speak with my wife first."

"Where is she?"

"We were supposed to meet here."

"Supposed to?"

"Will. We have agreed to meet here."

"We've been asked to ensure that something is written in all the fields."

"I have to speak with my wife first. I'm looking for her. I said so."

"Then I'll put England."

England, smack in the middle between south and north, still habitable.

"But it's not for sure that it will be England where we ..."

Anna didn't like England. Didn't like the food. Or the language.

"You have to put something," the guard said.

"So we won't be committed to it?"

He laughed a curt laugh.

"If you should be lucky enough to be granted residency, you must take whatever country you get."

He leaned over the form and wrote quickly: Great Britain. Then he gave me back my passport. "That's everything," he said. "At night you must stay here, but during the day you can come and go as you please, both inside and outside the camp."

"Understood," I said.

I tried to smile again. I wished he would smile back. I could have used a smile.

"You'll be assigned a spot in Hall 4," he said.

"But where can I ask about my wife? And my son? He's just a baby. His name is August."

The guard raised his head. Finally he looked at me. "The Red Cross," he said. "You'll see them as soon as you enter."

I wanted to give him a hug, but instead just mumbled "Thanks."

"Next, please," he said.

We walked quickly through the gate. I pulled Lou behind me. As soon as we were inside, I became aware of a sound: crickets. They were sitting in a tree above us, rubbing their wings together feverishly. There was no water, but they kept it up, as energetically as hell, did not give up. That was perhaps how one should take this. I tried breathing more calmly.

Excerpted from The End of the Ocean by Maja Lunde. Copyright © 2020 by Maja Lunde. Excerpted by permission of Harper Via. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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