This dystopian novel focuses on characters who are part of God’s Gardeners, a progressive/rational/Green religious group that has separated itself from most aspects of mainstream society. Led by the Adams (Adam One, Adam Two and so on) and Eves, the group raises lush gardens on rooftops around an unnamed metropolis, tends bees, lives a vegetarian life, and honors “Saints” each day with hymns and a talk by Adam One. The violence and cruelty of mainstream society is apparent in a great variety of details. Police and military have become private enterprises funded by corporations to protect their interests. Prison, “Painball,” is a kind of Roman circus of criminals hunting one another and televised for the enlightenment of the citizenry. Two women, Ren and Toby, who have been rescued from violent sexual predators by the Gardeners, are the central characters. Their efforts to survive after The Flood, a pandemic that kills most of the human population, are painful. Despite the dark themes of the novel, there is also great hope for the kindest and most generative aspects of humankind, and there is a dark humor throughout the novel.
As always, Atwood is a master stylist who uses and plays with language and imagery with glorious results.