Books

Atlantic Monthly Press
Grove Press
Atlantic Monthly Press

The End We Start From

by Megan Hunter

From a daring new talent, a “beautifully spare, haunting meditation” (Emily St. John Mandel) on young motherhood, exile, and love in the midst of an all too likely environmental catastrophe.

  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Page Count 144
  • Publication Date November 07, 2017
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2689-4
  • Dimensions 5" x 7.25"
  • US List Price $22.00
  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Publication Date November 07, 2017
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-8906-6
  • US List Price $22.00

About the Book

A Fall 2017 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection

Preempted by publishers around the world within days of the 2016 London Book Fair, The End We Start From heralds the arrival of Megan Hunter, a dazzling and unique literary talent. Hunter’s debut is 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.

Praise

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.” —Tracy Chevalier, author of Girl With a Pearl Earring

“Virginia Woolf does cli-fi.” —Independent (UK)

“Extraordinary . . . a spare, futuristic fable about a brand-new mother navigating a flooded world. While it’s written with poetic reticence, it paints an expansive and moving portrait of the struggles and celebrations that any new parent faces against a backdrop that feels at once like a distant nightmare and an all-too-probable consequence of climate change.” —Chloe Schama, Vogue.com “What To Read this Fall”

“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 . . . Though the story is marked by incredible loss, the hope beyond the devastation is worth holding on for. Hunter’s is an uncommon disaster tale—lovely, intimate, and foreboding.” —Michelle Anne Schingler, Forward Reviews

“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. . . . rather than focus on the specifics of the catastrophe, the story instead becomes an investigation of the tumultuous internal life of a new mother . . . Told in a voice that is by turns meditative, desperate, and hopeful, this novel showcases Hunter’s considerable talents and range.” —Publishers Weekly

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. It is of course told from the perspective of a mother, rather than a father, and is set in a world that is only beginning to fall into chaos­ . . . Megan Hunter’s remarkable debut novel feels like the other half of the story.” —Financial Times

“A short, haunting story about the end of days, sparse, beautiful and heroic.” —Evie Wyld, Observer

“Startlingly poetic . . . Hunter writes with delicacy and precision; her imagery is pearlescent in places. It’s a sliver of a novel, but it shimmers.” —Natasha Tripney, Guardian (Best Debut Fiction)

“Ambitious, original and disturbing.” —Fanny Blake, Daily Mail (Best Debuts)

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.” —Naomi Alderman’s Book of the Year (Summer books 2017 in the Financial 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. How we respond under pressure, when time is measured in terms of where the next meal will come from. . . . Formally, and by placing motherhood at the center of the narrative, there is an echo of Jenny Offill’s Dept of Speculation . . . it is a highly interior story, in the hands of a narrator of great skill. As an exploration of motherhood, it’s a visceral, poetic confession. There is an extra resonance in reading The End We Start From in uncertain Brexit/Trump times—and who can say whether this is a worse dystopia than either of those? But there is a postdiluvian hope on these pages. There is meaning in community, in simple things, and in words and family. A world can be as small as three people, but it can contain multitudes.” —Sinéad Gleeson, Irish Times

“[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 . . . I found myself picturing scenes from Alfonso Cuaron’s film Children of Men while I read, Hunter’s narrative evoking a similar balance between the commonplace and the alien—of everyday life in a world that’s recognizably our own, but as seen through a glass darkly. . . . 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.” —Lucy Scholes, Independent (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.” —Sharmaine Lovegrove, Elle (UK)

“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.” —The Bookseller (Editor’s Choice)

“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.” —Psychologies “Book of the Month” (UK)

“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.” —Hannah Kent, author of Burial Rites

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

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

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.” —Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, author of Harmless Like You

“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.” —Jim Crace, author of Harvest

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

“Beautiful . . . Water isn’t the thing here, love is. And how we survive as the level of love rises.” —Cynan Jones, author of The Dig

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

“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.” —Christie Watson, author of Tiny Sunbirds Far Away

Bookseller praise for The End We Start From:

“A riveting piece that haunts as well as delights. Hunter’s poetic verse reveals the depth of emotion, relation, and challenge against which we all struggle. Interleaved are myths, as poignant as the protagonist’s tale. Both compelling and brief, The End We Start From is an impressive debut.” —Shelly Walston, Watermark Books & Café (Wichita, Kansas)

“Sparse, perfectly chosen words fill this small novel that goes straight to the heart and does not let go until its gracious ending.” —Kira Wizner, Merritt Bookstore (Millbrook, New York)

“I read The End We Start From almost breathless, hanging on to debut novelist Megan Hunter’s every word. Indeed, every word matters in this succinct look at life in London after a catastrophic flood; a mother births and raises a child there against all odds, and her hope and survival will capture the heart of the reader. This one’s worth the buzz.” —Annie Jones, The Bookshelf LLC (Brunswick, Ohio)

“In this book, Hunter explores the mother-child relationship amid the flooded London and chaos. The novel starts with the mother giving birth to her baby, and sparking on her journey of dealing with so many unexpected life difficulties on her own. Aside from the engaging story itself, what I liked the most about this book is its poetic language. In her fragmented, short novella, Hunter tells the reader about the survival story of a mother, who summons up every ounce of courage to live through disasters for her baby, herself and her love. A must read.” —Razieh Araghi, Bookpeople (Austin, Texas)

“Perfect for fans of Station Eleven and After Birth, The End We Start From is a short, exquisite novel about motherhood, disaster, and survival. While you could easily devour this book in one sitting, I recommend you take your time—savor each perfectly chosen word marvel at how the shortest phrases convey so much meaning. Read it and then immediately read it again. Megan Hunter is a truly stunning author and I can’t wait to see what she does next.” —Elizabeth Jordan, Bookpeople (Austin, Texas)

“This is one of those books that’s incredibly hard to talk about. You want to simply push it into someone’s hands, and say ‘read this.’ If you’re looking for something unconventional and fresh, this is it.” —Aubrey Winkler, Powell’s Books (Portland, Oregon)

“The end of the world told through the eyes of a mother attempting to run away from the madness of the world, while her husband has disappeared. Lyrical and beautiful . . .” —Jason Kennedy, Boswell Books (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)

“An apocalyptic flood ravages London at the near-moment our unnamed narrator gives birth to her son and leads to the loss of normalcy for the survivors forever. In language that is spare but never simple, Megan Hunter writes of the protagonist’s journey as she and her family try to survive and retain their humanity under the most devastating of circumstances. The way that civilization devolves into terror and brutality are all-too-believable, while there remain glimmers of kindness and grace between the people ravaged by the flood. The finely chosen details and perfectly evocative phrases that fill this book made me ache.” —Jamie Thomas, Women and Children First (Chicago, Illinois)

“This haunting, visceral thing of a book took my breath away. Within its pages, we follow an unnamed new mother through a dystopian London under flood waters, into a newly crowded English countryside, and onto a boat that whisks us away to an island off the coast of Scotland. This is a story of a mother and her new son and the lengths to which love can go, even in the depths of such catastrophic destruction. Hunter’s prose is at once both quietly hopeful and powerfully beautiful. The End We Start From is a celebration of love and life, and of the world itself.” —Clare Tobin, Literati Bookstore (Ann Arbor, Michigan)

Excerpt

I am thirty-two weeks pregnant when they announce it: the water is rising faster than they thought. It is creeping faster. A calculation error. A badly plotted movie, sensors out at sea.

We hide under the duvet with a torch like children. I ask R if he still would have done it. If he had known. He doesn’t answer.

He shines the torch up into the duvet and makes his fingers into ducks. I decide to take that as a yes.

* * *

I am a geriatric primigravida, but I don’t look it.

We have leather sofas. R spills takeaway on them and grins: wipe clean.

I am thirty-eight weeks when they tell us we will have to move. That we are within the Gulp Zone.

I say whoever thought of that name should be boiled in noodles. R spends all night on the same property website. It is loading very slowly.

* * *

Man came from a germ. From this germ we fashioned him, from clot to bones to thick flesh. We stood him up on one end, a new creation.

* * *

J phones an ambulance and S looks out of the window palely.

I gaze at the wooden floor. I have never noticed how beautiful it is before.

It is perfectly dusk-coloured, and the whorls are rising like dark little planets through its glow.

Between the waves of disembowelling wrench the world is shining. I feel like Aldous Huxley on mescaline. I am drenched in is-ness.