Summary and book reviews of The End We Start From by Stephen Hunter

The End We Start From

by Stephen Hunter

The End We Start From by Stephen Hunter X
The End We Start From by Stephen Hunter
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  • Published:
    Nov 2017, 160 pages

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Book Summary

A searing original, a modern-day parable of rebirth and renewal, of maternal bonds, and the instinct to survive and thrive in the absence of all that's familiar.

As London is submerged below floodwaters, a woman gives birth to her first child, Z. Days later, she and her baby are forced to leave their home in search of safety. They head north through a newly dangerous country seeking refuge from place to place. The story traces fear and wonder as the baby grows, thriving and content against all the odds.

The End We Start From is an indelible and elemental first book - a lyrical vision of the strangeness and beauty of new motherhood, and a tale of endurance in the face of ungovernable change.

1

I am hours from giving birth, from the event I thought would never happen to me, and R has gone up a mountain.

When I text him, he sends his friend S to look after me, and starts down the mountain.

S is scared, and has brought J.

J is also scared, and has brought beer.

They watch me from a corner of the room as though I am an unpredictable animal, a lumbering gorilla with a low-slung belly and suspicious eyes. Occasionally they pass me a banana.

They try to put Match of the Day on. I growl. I growl

more and more, and finally I am waterless, the pool of myself spreading slowly past my toes.

They flap like small birds around the water, they perch on my giant head, they speak of kettles and hot towels.

I tell them I have to push, and they back away, reaching

for their phones.

* * *

At first there was only the sea, only the sky. From the sky came a rock, which dropped deep into the sea. A thick slime covered the rock, and from this slime words grew.

* * *

...

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Reviews

Media Reviews

Forward Reviews

Poetic and succinct, Megan Hunter's The End We Start From is an etiological exercise for a climate-changed world - a post-apocalyptic novel in which current human mistakes are followed forward to dismaying ends... Hunter's is an uncommon disaster tale - lovely, intimate, and foreboding.

Vogue.com "What To Read this Fall"

Extraordinary...a spare, futuristic fable about a brand-new mother navigating a flooded world.

Booklist

A uniquely intimate tale of motherhood amid catastrophe.

Publishers Weekly

The postapocalyptic literary novel is currently in vogue almost to the point of redundancy, but Hunter's slim yet sharp debut offers a level of precision and interiority rarely seen in the genre...Told in a voice that is by turns meditative, desperate, and hopeful, this novel showcases Hunter's considerable talents and range.

Kirkus Reviews

Prescient in its depiction of climate change-induced catastrophe and timeless in its cleareyed understanding of love, Hunter's tale gains impact from its plausibility.

Library Journal

Starred Review. The story may seem familiar - the dystopian nightmare, the mass migration, food shortages, an uncertain future - but debut novelist Hunter's spare prose and luminous writing give it a fresh immediacy.

Financial Times (UK)

The End We Start From is reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy's The Road, in that it shares the same narrative detachment, and the same precise poetry­...Megan Hunter's remarkable debut novel feels like the other half of the story.

The Observer (UK)

A short, haunting story about the end of days, sparse, beautiful and heroic.

The Guardian, Best Debut Fiction (UK)

Startlingly poetic...Hunter writes with delicacy and precision; her imagery is pearlescent in places. It's a sliver of a novel, but it shimmers.

The Daily Mail (UK), Best Debuts

Ambitious, original and disturbing.

Naomi Alderman's Book of the Year (Summer books 2017) in the Financial Times (UK)

The End We Start From by Megan Hunter is a short, concentrated book – a shot of distilled story, like the pulp of a tale boiled to a thick spiced paste…With passages from mythology interspersed with its imagined future, the book is engrossing, compelling and finally hopeful.

he Independent (UK)

[A] strange and haunting novella-cum-prose poem... oddly familiar, both to the narrator and to the reader, all the dystopian fiction that's come before filling in the ellipses in Hunter's narrative... Virginia Woolf does cli-fi...the beating heart of this tender and tremendous story is without doubt Hunter's portrait of early motherhood, an all-encompassing world of its own.

Elle (UK)

A new take on the [dystopian] genre, this startling debut combines utter despair with the reality of family life...Megan Hunter's prose is beautiful and insightful. Everyone who reads this will come away feeling renewed.

The Bookseller (UK)

Editor's Choice. A very exciting debut from a hugely talented young writer ... [Hunter's] beautiful prose is spare, yet able to conjure every emotion in the reader from terror to wonder. A stunning achievement.

Psychologies (UK)

Book of the Month. You can tell that Megan Hunter is a poet: her slender, startling debut shimmers with light, even as the novel heads into dark territory...Tender and profound.

The Irish Times

Motherhood is an immersive experience and Hunter is brilliant on the urgency of it... Hunter traces - with expert precision and such lyricism - who we are when life is minimized...it is a highly interior story, in the hands of a narrator of great skill.

Author Blurb Emily St. John Mandel, author of Station Eleven
A beautifully spare, haunting meditation on the persistence of life after catastrophe. I loved it.

Author Blurb Evie Wyld, author of All the Birds, Singing
An exceptional, alarming and beautiful book, which still echoes months after I finished reading it. Megan Hunter is a writer of unnerving power.

Author Blurb Tracy Chevalier, author of Girl With a Pearl Earring
The End We Start From is strange and powerful, and very apt for these uncertain times. I was moved, terrified, uplifted - sometimes all three at once. It takes skill to manage that, and Hunter has a poet's understanding of how to make each word count.

Author Blurb Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, author of Harmless Like You
The End We Start From is relentlessly, achingly personal. Hunter reminds us that disasters are rarely experienced in panorama. Instead, we live bone-deep inside our narrator. This book is fierce, sorrowful, and spiked with moments of bright joy.

Author Blurb Jim Crace, author of Harvest
I can't remember ever having read a novel quite as sparing or as daring as Megan Hunter's The End We Start From, or one that delivers so mighty an impact from such delicate materials. It is a moving, wistful and compelling debut.

Author Blurb Lisa Owens, author of Not Working
A beautiful, timely book about survival (both domestic and global) shot through with hope and humanity.

Author Blurb Cynan Jones, author of The Dig
Beautiful ... Water isn't the thing here, love is. And how we survive as the level of love rises.

Author Blurb Nathan Filer, author of The Shock of the Fall
I'll be recommending this book for years to come. Utterly brilliant, hugely important. Here's the thing: it's perfect.

Author Blurb Christie Watson, author of Tiny Sunbirds Far Away
I held my breath reading this beautiful and timely novel. With precise yet lyrical language Megan Hunter gets to the centre of who we are, where we are, and why it matters. The End We Start From is a work of art.

Hannah Kent, author of Burial Rites
Extraordinary. Megan Hunter's prose is exquisite, her depiction of a world descending into chaos is frighteningly real, and yet, it is her portrayal of motherhood - that tender-terrifying experience of bringing a child into a world - that has remained with me. The End We Start From is an incredible, original exploration of all that beauty, boredom and bewilderment. I read it in one sitting, and was deeply moved.

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