Monday, December 04, 2006

Not the End of the World

Book: Not the End of the World
Author: Geraldine McCaughrean
Published: 2006

“The end of the world is a busy time if you intend to live through it.”

And Timna’s family does. While their neighbors mock and taunt, they have been preparing for an apocalypse--packing their things, gathering animals, and building an ark. Because this is most definitely the end of the world . . . at least for anyone who’s not in Noah’s family.

Then the flood comes, and Timna’s confidence in her family’s choices is shaken as she watches the terrible deaths of all those neighbors who mocked them. When she involuntarily rescues a young boy and his baby sister, she tries to tell herself that they are demons and her fervent father is right. But she keeps protecting them, until it all comes to the point where the world ends . . . again.

I knew the story of Noah and the ark so well, growing up, that after reading this book, I realized I didn’t know it at all. McCaughrean has actually sat down and thought about the effect of a mass flood on a population, and on a single human being. Thanks to this preparation, Not the End of the World is a shocking and thought-provoking book. She portrays the interpersonal relationships, strained and warped by claustrophobic shipboard life, in a way that the calm and sonorous tones of Genesis never evoked. While it’s mostly Timna’s story, McCaughrean also narrates through other characters (although only one Biblical character and never Noah), and she also gives distinct and fascinating voices to the animals aboard.

Timna herself, instead of being an idealistic rebel from the start, comes around to an understanding of her father, of God, and of moral choices gradually. It’s probably a good idea to know the story of the Ark before diving into this book, but when you do, be prepared to have the familiar story turned inside out.

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