Book Review: MaddAddam

Well, I did it. I basically binge-read Margaret Atwood’s trilogy. Starting with Oryx and Crake, continuing on to The Year of the Flood, and ending with MaddAddam.

MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood

(Side note: how do I get that amazing cover?? Is it the Canadian version? The U.S. one is definitely inferior.)

I read the first two books in the trilogy earlier this summer, so all the back story was pretty fresh in my mind. Which greatly enhanced the reading of this book. Atwood seems fairly conscientious about getting readers caught up to speed, so I think technically you could read this book on its own — but why would you want to? It’s so much richer when you have the whole background, the entire mythology.

“Mythology” seems to be a central theme of this book — specifically, the stories we tell ourselves, both for ourselves and about ourselves, and how those stories shape us. The book is told through three distinct narrators: Toby (she was one of our narrators in The Year of the Flood), Zeb (a character from the past book), and Blackbeard (a young ‘Craker’, a new species of super-humans created by Crake). Each voice adds its own nuance to the story, its own meaning. At first, I was somewhat puzzled by Atwood’s choice of narrator in certain sections. But then I realized what a different story it would be if someone else told it.

Two quotes stood out to me while reading the book. One near the beginning:

“There’s the story, then there’s the real story, then there’s the story of how the story came to be told. Then there’s what you leave out of the story. Which is part of the story too.”

And near the end:

“‘There,’ says Blackbeard. ‘Telling the story is hard, and writing the story must be more hard. Oh Toby, when you are too tired to do it, next time I will write the story. I will be your helper.'”

Throughout the book, there are musings on writing, on stories, what stories mean, what’s the point of stories in a dystopian society where mankind struggles for survival. At the end, Atwood’s answer is very clear: stories do matter. Stories are important. They are a flicker of hope in what can be an otherwise dark and scary world.

I was sad reading the last chapter of MaddAddam. I was sad to leave this world, where I’d spent so much of the summer. But that’s always how a good book is, isn’t it? You want to know what happens, but you never really want it to end. And fortunately, I get to extend this out just a teeny bit — Margaret Atwood is coming to Seattle the end of October, and I’m going to her reading. So perhaps MaddAddam isn’t quite over yet.

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