City’s souls lost and saved in the flood
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