One of our recommended books is The End of the Ocean by Maja Lunde

THE END OF THE OCEAN

A Novel


From the author of the number-one international bestseller The History of Bees, a captivating story of the power of nature and the human spirit that explores the threat of a devastating worldwide drought, witnessed through the lives of a father, a daughter, and a woman who will risk her life to save the future.

In 2019, seventy-year-old Signe sets sail alone on a hazardous voyage across the ocean in a sailboat. On board, a cargo that can change lives. Signe is haunted by memories of the love of her life, whom she’ll meet again soon.

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From the author of the number-one international bestseller The History of Bees, a captivating story of the power of nature and the human spirit that explores the threat of a devastating worldwide drought, witnessed through the lives of a father, a daughter, and a woman who will risk her life to save the future.

In 2019, seventy-year-old Signe sets sail alone on a hazardous voyage across the ocean in a sailboat. On board, a cargo that can change lives. Signe is haunted by memories of the love of her life, whom she’ll meet again soon.

In 2041, David and his young daughter, Lou, flee from a drought-stricken Southern Europe that has been ravaged by thirst and war. Separated from the rest of their family and desperate to find them, they discover an ancient sailboat in a dried-out garden, miles away from the nearest shore. Signe’s sailboat.

As David and Lou discover Signe’s personal effects, her long ago journey becomes inexorably linked to their own.

An evocative tale of the search for love and connection, The End of the Ocean is a profoundly moving father daughter story of survival and a clarion call for climate action.

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  • HarperVia
  • Hardcover
  • January 2020
  • 304 Pages
  • 9780062951366

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$27.99

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About Maja Lunde

Maja Lunde is the author of The End of the Ocean, photo credit Oda BerbyMaja Lunde is a Norwegian author and screenwriter. Lunde has written five books for children and young adults. She has also written scripts for Norwegian television, including for the children’s series Barnas supershow (“The Children’s Super Show”), the drama series Hjem (“Home”) and the comedy series Side om Side (“Side by Side”). The History of Bees was her first novel for adults. She lives with her husband and three children in Oslo.

Praise

“If we somehow manage to save the planet from ourselves, it will be because of big-hearted beautiful books like this one, that make us feel the devastating cost of our current climate inaction. Not just the planet-wide consequences, but the human-scale ones as well. Gripping and powerful.” – Sam J. Miller, Nebula Award Winning author of Blackfish City

“Lyrical, atmospheric, and eerily prescient, The End of the Ocean is my favorite kind of speculative fiction. Lunde expertly weaves together both a warning and a gorgeous literary work of love and survival that will leave you wishing for rain.” – Christina Dalcher, national bestselling author of Vox

“Two stories on the impact of climate change intersect in this thoughtful and suspenseful novel… Both halves of the story are convincingly detailed and quietly wrenching, and Lunde gradually and subtly draws them together to powerful effect.” – Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“As the water crisis gets worse, the desperation echoes the extremities of Emily St. John Mandel’s postapocalyptic Station Eleven (2014). In a gripping narrative, Lunde portrays the profit-motivated decisions that created and are now exacerbating David’s horrific existence. This is another brilliant call to arms from a vital contemporary novelist.” – ALA Booklist

Discussion Questions

1. Magnus once tells Signe that the beautiful landscape of Ringfjorden with its glaciers and rivers “created” her. How does Signe’s connection with water shape her actions and relationships? How does David and Lou’s environment change them? Going further, how has nature shaped humankind rather than the other way around?

2. The End of the Ocean alternates between Signe’s story in 2017 and David’s in 2041. Why do you think the author chose two time periods decades apart? How are their stories and worlds connected, and what do you think the author is trying to illustrate about our future world?

3. At twenty-five, David is a young and inexperienced father. How does his relationship with Lou and role as a father develop? How is Lou’s childhood different from the way Signe imagines her own youth?

4. Discuss each character’s relationship with water. How does Signe view water differently than Magnus? How does it affect their relationship? Contrast this with how David and Lou treat water as a precious resource.

5. Why do you think the author chose to tackle issues of climate change through dystopian fiction rather than non-fiction? How does character and plot influence how we relate to very real problems like man-made drought or uncontrollable wildfires?

Excerpt

Chapter One

Signe

Ringfjorden, Sogn og Fjordane, Norway, 2017

Nothing stopped the water. You could follow it from the mountain to the fjord, from the snow that fell from the clouds and settled on the peaks to the mist that rose above the ocean and again became clouds.

The glacier grew every single winter. And every summer it melted, releasing drops, drops that became streams, which found their way down, driven by gravity, and the streams accumulated, becoming waterfalls, rivers.

We were two villages that shared a mountain and a glacier. We had them for as long as we could remember. One side of the mountain was a vertical wall, where the Sister Falls descended. They crashed straight down for 711 meters toward Lake Eide, a deep green body of water after which the village was named, Eidesdalen, and which provided fertile growing conditions there for animals and human beings.

Eidesdalen, Magnus’s village.

They couldn’t see the fjord in Eidesdalen; they weren’t accustomed to having the taste of salt on their lips. The salt was not carried by the wind and they could not smell the ocean. But they had their water, the water without taste, the water that made everything grow—and later Magnus said that he had never missed the ocean.

On the other side of the mountain it was milder, less harsh. Here the water accumulated in the River Breio, the salmon’s river, the water ouzels’ river, the freshwater mussels’ river. It forced its way through a crevasse in the landscape, forming this chasm with millions of drops every second, in waterfalls, in streams, and in calm, smooth stretches. When the sun shone, it became a luminous ribbon.

The River Breio continued all the way to Ringfjorden, and there, in the village at sea level, the river met with salt water. There the water from the glacier became one with the ocean.

Ringfjorden, my village.

And then they were together, the water from the glacier and the water from the ocean, until the sun absorbed the drops once more, drew them up into the air as mist, to the clouds, where they escaped the force of gravity.

I’m back now. Blåfonna, the glacier that once was ours, has forced me to return. There is no wind when I reach Ringfjorden. I am obliged to use the engine to travel the final stretch, and the clattering sound drowns out everything else. Blue glides through the water and leaves only small ripples in its wake.

I can never forget this landscape. “It has created you, Signe,” Magnus once said. He meant it had imprinted itself in me, the way I walk with my legs slightly bent, as if I were always confronting a hill. Nonetheless I am surprised now when I see it again: the summits, the falls, the vertical meeting the horizontal.

People travel here from far away to see this landscape and find the sight to be “beautiful, fantastic, amazing.” They stand on ship decks as large as football fields while enormous diesel engines spew out exhaust fumes. They stand there and point and gaze at the clear blue water, the bluish-green hillsides where fragile houses cling tightly to forty-five-degree-angle slopes. More than one thousand meters above them are the mountains, the earth’s stripped, sharp edges, breaking against the sky, with a sprinkling of white that the tourists love. “Wow, it’s snow,” they say, whether it’s winter or summer.

But the tourists don’t see the Sister Falls or Sønstebø’s summer farm on the mountain. They have long since disappeared. They can’t see the River Breio, which was the very first to go, before the ships arrived, long before the Americans and Japanese came with their telephones and cameras and telephoto lenses. The pipes are concealed underground, and the damage inflicted on the wildlife by the excavation work has slowly been concealed by vegetation.

I stand there with the tiller in my hand, moving slowly as I approach the village. I pass the power plant, a huge concrete building all by itself down by the water. It is heavy and dark—a monument to the dead river and waterfall. From there the cables stretch out in all directions, some of them cross over the fjord. They have even received permission for that.

The engine drowns out everything, but I remember the sound of the power lines, the soft humming, in wet weather, water against electricity, a crackling. It has always given me goose bumps, especially in darkness, when you can see how it sparks.

All four of the moorings for visitors at the wharf are vacant. It’s too early for tourists—the moorings are used only in the summertime, so I can take my pick. I choose the spot farthest out, mooring the craft astern and at the bow and put out a spring line to be on the safe side; the wind from the west could blow up without any warning. As I pull the throttle control completely astern, I can hear the reluctant gasps of the engine shutting down. I close the hatch to the saloon and place the bunch of keys in the breast pocket of my parka. The key ring is a big cork ball that ensures it will float—it produces a small bulge over my stomach.

The bus stop is where it has always been, outside the consumer co-op. I sit and wait—the bus comes only once an hour. That’s how it is here; everything happens seldom and must be planned. I have just forgotten about it after all these years.

Finally it appears. I am accompanied by a group of adolescents. They come from the high school that was built in the early 1980s, the new one, the nice one, one of the many things the village could afford. They talk and talk about tests and homework assignments. I can’t help but notice their smooth foreheads, soft cheeks; they are astoundingly young, without any marks whatsoever, without the traces of a life lived.

They don’t even bother to glance at me. I understand them well. For them I am just an aging woman, a little shabby and unkempt in a worn-out parka, with gray locks of hair sticking out from beneath a knitted hat.

They have new, almost identical hats, with the same logo in the middle of the brow. I hasten to take off my own and put it in my lap. It is of course full of fuzz balls. I start picking them off one by one and my hand fills up with lint. But there’s no point, there are too many of them to remove and now I don’t know what to do with them, so I end up sitting there with a loose mound in my hand. Finally I release it down onto the floor. The wool floats weightlessly down the aisle, but the adolescents don’t pay it any mind, and why should they look at a clump of gray lint?

Sometimes I forget how I look. After a while you stop caring about your appearance when you live on board a boat, but once in a great while when I see myself in a mirror on land, when the lighting is good, I am startled. Who is she, the person in there? Who in the world is that skinny old biddy?

It is strange—no, surreal, surreal is the word—that I’m one of them, the old people, when I am still so completely myself through and through, the same person I have always been. Whether I am fifteen, thirty-five, or fifty, I am a constant, unchanged mass. Like the person I am in a dream, like a stone, like one-thousand-year-old ice. My age is disconnected from me. Only when I move does its existence become perceptible—then it makes itself known through all its pains, the aching knees, the stiff neck, the grumbling hip.

But the young people don’t think about my being old, because they don’t even see me. That’s how it is, nobody sees old ladies. It has been many years since a young person looked at me. They just laugh youthfully and openly and talk about a history quiz they’ve just taken, the Cold War, the Berlin Wall, what grades they got. And nobody mentions the ice, not a word about the ice, about the glacier, even though it should be what everyone is talking about here at home.