“The sun looks older, Orange, sagging, like it might drop. H says it’s only mist”
– The End We Start From by Megan Hunter
In her debut novel, Megan Hunter explores motherhood and womanhood wherein her heroine is the subject of a disaster during which she must keep her son safe. In essence, Hunter crafts a dystopian almost near future true to the nature of the genre her novel has previously been described to be under: Cli-Fi (fiction about climate change).
More distinctly, however, Hunter has written the novel in such a succinct manner – it is almost poetic. Her brief sharp descriptions of events strictly in the point of view of a mother taking care of her son during a flood in London are punctuated in italics by a seemingly eloquent poetic detailing of the gradual flood that took effect (“The earth was bare, and barren… no trees grew”). These short extracts in italics that subtly broke the narrative up made me want to re-read the whole novel once more once I got to the end, this effect can make it feel as though the novel’s pace was as fast and yet slow as the author made the pace of the disaster seem to have been felt by the heroine in the novel. This form in particular due to its effects made me really think about climate change more than ever before; The font changes made by Hunter, her short sentences and, sometimes, sentences without any spaces makes the work all the more engaging and emotional. As well as this all characters were only named by their initial, ‘Z’ the heroine’s son, being an example. In essence, the form was unusual and in turn, it impressed me. It felt apt to the plot and message. The gaps Hunter leaves, the nameless characters added to the unpredictability of the situation that the heroine was faced with kept me guessing and kept the pages turning.
Though while Hunter delivers to us a novel that perhaps illuminates the ignorance towards climate and environment (for example, there are parts at the beginning where the main characters still refuse to listen to the news even though the event is actually happening to them, instead they watch talent shows) – Hunter also highlights the fear specifically of the heroine in a world that seems to have become lawless.
For example, Hunter writes through the heroine’s view:“theymadeustakeourclothesoff” after explaining “O thinks the babies make us non-women, as far as these men are concerned…They make us safe” and “I want to write about the checkpoint quickly. Get it over with”. Hunter writes the heroine to be in a very vulnerable situation, where the character is seeking refuge with her baby she seems to feel threatened as though she may be taken advantage of, or worse, the character may have been (taken advantage of). The emptiness of the text may keep one guessing. This book could make one think about the misfortunes of refugees in this respect. And of any woman, of anyone in a unjust situation involving an person or group in an authoritative position. This is what any book should do – take us out of our own world to realize the misfortunes of others in order to allow us to question the world in ways it may need to be questioned. And yet, Hunter seemed to have intensely by making the situation of a natural disaster which is entirely plausible, almost anywhere. After all, natural disasters have already stolen lives and livelihoods of many already. And consequently, Hunter’s work sheds light upon the suffering refugees globally through her heroine who is persistently seeking refuge, in a sense. Through her heroine who she crafts to undergo numerous distressing situations. These events throughout the work made it seem apt to the present despite it being threatening towards a near future.
Simply, the novel The End We Start From has a lot of strengths, it is unique and effective. It is, overall, about a mother and her baby, the life of her baby in a time of crisis; it is about the rawness of being a woman, the beauty of motherhood. Though, told with sophisticated sparse prose, in between it could be seen that Hunter may have just held a mirror up to the, perhaps pluralistic ignorance towards the imminent danger of climate change.