The End of the Ocean
Author, Maja Lunde
Translated by Diane Oatley
by Jarad Johnson
A frightening, yet all too possible premise. The oceans becoming dry. People retreating north away from the droughts. Trees withering and dying. Global starvation. This is what the book means by the end of the ocean. Through two narratives, we see the impact of this disaster. One story tells of Signe, who loves to sail her boat on the ocean and is a climate activist. The other is the story of a father and daughter, set adrift in the new world of desert.
This book taps into something that keeps me up at night quite often: the impact of climate change upon the earth. I am not here to argue its existence; if you do not see that by now, with the oceans dying and the radical change in weather in the last ten years, then I fear that you are either willfully blind or misled by certain media outlets. It is no longer up for debate, and until the global collective recognizes the urgency that faces our planet, the premise of this book comes ever closer. Even if climate change is over hyped, the ways in which we treat the earth (and frankly, each other) must change. We no longer respect that we as a species are part of a global ecosystem, and we do not rule over the earth without consequence. We really have a lot to atone for and much arrogance to overcome.
However, I must say that as much as I think about the topic, I was disappointed by this book. What I thought would be an inspiring and rallying call for change became a meandering and slightly distracted storyline. I found myself unable to really care about any of the characters, finding them either entirely aloof or too childish to deserve my attention. Now, I’m not saying that I would be on my best behavior in the midst of a global catastrophe, but that was part of the problem- the global catastrophe was in the background, merely a catalyst for many of the plot points. I was not inspired by this book, nor did I really feel it possessed the urgency the climate change demands. What was meant to convey meaning instead masked the original purpose of this book in the petty goings on of people’s day to day lives.
As I said, the book is divided into two storylines, with at best a tenuous connection (I won’t tell you what it is, in case you’d like to read it for yourselves). But I found myself wondering why the two of those stories were even in the same book, and again what message they were trying to convey. I really wish the author had used this opportunity to present a more climate-based message. I think what they were trying to do is present the struggle of these characters to reflect the reality that climate change will bring, but really the story could’ve been told almost the same without the inclusion of climate change- that felt like an afterthought, instead of the central part of the story that it claimed to be. I kept waiting for the impact to hit, but this book has moved beyond the disaster to a future where it’s a foregone conclusion.
I was also not very interested in the characters themselves. It is just my opinion, but if you’re trying to inspire people around a cause by telling the stories of its impact on everyday people, perhaps those people should be at least a little sympathetic. I didn’t find myself as interested as I should be by the characters’ plights. But I know there are many people who love this book, and if you’re one of those people, tell us why!
You may think I’m being hard on this book, and… I am. This topic demands it. As much as I believe in the causes of civil rights and all the other social and political changes that need to occur across the United States and the country, it doesn’t matter If we aren’t here to see those changes, or indeed to make them. This book has driven home one of my deepest concerns, that people will continue to bicker amongst themselves or ignore the issue entirely until it is too late. Or, as many do now, they will simply not care.
We need stories right now. Stories to inspire us, and to show us the danger we are in. Stories have often been the catalyst for social change, either verbal stories or the written word. Those kinds of things hold power. This book fell short of that, but perhaps it’s a good jumping off point for a conversation.
Jarad recently graduated from college at MTSU, loves tea and coffee, and tries to spend every spare second reading. He is a fervent gardener and is fascinated by all related topics and has spent several years writing about this passion. He has been gardening for 6 years and believes that Nature is our greatest teacher. He majored in English with a concentration in literature and plans to pursue and master’s degree in Ecocriticism.