Crown Publishing Group: American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West by Nate Blakeslee

The End We Start From

New parenthood often feels like the end and beginning of the world. First babies can be all-absorbing, and the sleeplessness and animal impulses can fragment a caretaker's perceptions until the outside world becomes distant and unreal. Megan Hunter's impressionistic debut, The End We Start From, narrates a woman's first year of motherhood in a flooded, imploding Britain.

A nameless narrator is knocked out of her "usual cynicism" by new motherhood and an apocalyptic flood that submerges her high-rise London flat. She and her partner lose their sheltered urban lives almost the day their baby is born. "Bad news as it always was, forever, but worse. More relevant. This is what you don't want, we realize. What no one ever wanted: for the news to be relevant." They flee to her in-laws' house in the country, but nightmare dangers drive them farther north, first to a refugee camp and finally to a far island. Most of the characters are nameless sketches, and much is left unexplained, evoking the confusion and constant fear of refugees. The narrator and her baby exist in a small clear eye together at the center of a collapsing world.

Hunter writes in condensed, poetic language, with dreamlike alternations between exact perceptions and evocative obscurity. Short bursts of oracular imagery that read like myth or scripture are scattered through the text. This unsettling and beautiful short novel is a vision of how a life can wash out to sea, and then wash back in again, wrecked and transformed. --Sara Catterall