City’s souls lost and saved in the flood

Flood­line

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - Stella Clarke

NOT post-apoc­a­lyp­tic but post­dilu­vian; not to­mor­row but to­day; not bleak but cer­tainly un­com­fort­able, Syd­ney writer Kathryn Hey­man’s fifth novel has a parable-like qual­ity rem­i­nis­cent of Cor­mac McCarthy’s The Road.

Flood­line, how­ever, is not so much a shootme-now, fu­tur­is­tic, imag­i­na­tional endgame as a poke at ar­chaic su­per­sti­tions that may, for the re­li­giously in­clined, lurk just be­low the sur­face of our cli­mat­i­cally be­sieged con­scious­ness.

The scene Hey­man sets, of a drown­ing city, cov­ers vis­ually fa­mil­iar ground and makes an ur­gent con­text for the sto­ries of per­sonal By Kathryn Hey­man Allen & Un­win, 256pp, $29.99 growth that un­fold in the novel. The fic­tional city of Horneville could be Bris­bane, Calgary or Pas­sau. Most likely, it is mod­elled on New Or­leans. Mikey Brown, the main char­ac­ter, sets off on a mis­sion to help save the vic­tims of this flooded metropolis. How­ever, she is cart­ing along with her some­thing more es­sen­tial than a trailer-load of doubt­ful care pack­ages: her faith.

Mikey hosts a Chris­tian shop­ping chan­nel typ­i­cal of the cheer­fully ob­scene mat­ing of spir­i­tu­al­ity with com­mer­cial­ism ap­par­ently ram­pant in the US.

Calamity is, as ever, con­ducive to the har­vest­ing of souls. De­spite ra­tio­nal takes on such cat­a­strophic re­minders of our mor­tal­ity, ig­no­rance and prej­u­dice along with sus­pi­cions of venge­ful forces in­evitably float to the sur­face some­where.

Mikey also has a more per­sonal agenda. She has two young sons, whose odd names are plucked from bib­li­cal sources, Tal­ent and Mus­tard. She once had a hus­band, their fa­ther, Scott Brown, but he was swal­lowed up by Horneville years ago. They all suf­fer from his ab­sence, but Mikey knows more than her bereft sons about where he has gone.

Horneville, named with Chauce­rian chutz­pah, looms as a mod­ern-day Sodom in the sights of the Chris­tian com­mu­ni­ties around it, and is the reg­u­lar host of a huge gay mardi gras. Scott Brown left his fam­ily to visit the city, to do God’s work amid the de­praved hordes, and never came back.

When, on the eve of the

year’s planned

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