© 2024 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

'The End We Start From' Chronicles Motherhood In The Midst Of Crisis

The End We Start From is a book told in pieces — readers have to work for the story. Eventually, you put together enough pieces to know we're in London, sometime in the near future, and everyone's had to flee to higher ground because of an epic flood. In the midst of the chaos, a young mother — suddenly a refugee fighting for survival — tries to keep her new baby alive when the future of humankind itself is in doubt.

"I'd read, you know, those books that you read about your baby's first 12 months," says author Megan Hunter, "and really I found they were only sort of touching a very sort of basic level of the experience. I wanted to, you know, really go into the experience at a sort of deep, poetic literary level."

New parents, Hunter says, are in the midst of a surreal and disorienting experience, even without a world-ending flood. "I was just interested in how the atmosphere might be mirrored in a more sort of global situation, in really a catastrophe that takes place beyond, the level of a single family. So it was really putting those two ideas together — the atmosphere of new motherhood and a kind of dystopian restart of the whole of life that really gave the book its beginning."

Interview Highlights

On the sparse poetic style of the book

It started off in very much in the form that it is in today, but I've been playing around with form for a long time before I wrote it. So I've been playing around with poetry, with essay, with fiction, trying to find a way to write that felt kind of comfortable for me, I suppose, at the same time as, you know, doing something new in some way. That was important to me. And also the form really seemed to fit very nicely with both the experiences of new motherhood and the experience of being affected by an environmental crisis in this way. I mean, she doesn't have time to write long things, and it's very much written, you know, as though she is writing something. Sometimes she's consciously reflecting on the writing experience, and so the fragmentary-ness of the narrative, I hope, has a sort of naturalness about it. It's not too forced because it comes very naturally from her situation.

On whether the book mirrors current refugee issues

Yes, I mean very much so. I was writing it, you know, in the midst of hearing all of these news reports, both about the effects of climate change but also about refugees, about migration, the refugee crisis. And I wasn't trying to, you know, write their stories and write about those refugee camps, but it definitely led from the thought process that was, you know, what would it be like if that happened here, what would it be like if there was an environmental crisis in the U.K., in London, and where would people go and what would it be like?

On whether she gained any new insights into motherhood

Yes. I mean it's been really interesting. I've written the book and obviously when you write a book and it goes out into the world and then people talk to you about the book ... people have said things to me that I didn't necessarily know when I was writing it, you know, particularly about, I suppose, the nature of maternal love and the strength of it, you know, and how perhaps they haven't really read that much in literature. And you know the sort of most touching thing people have said to me is that they felt that the book really took them back to that time and people have said that to me who are older than me and whose children are completely grown up, and I find that very moving that they've been taken all the way back to that very sort of potent experience in the past.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Elise Hu is a host-at-large based at NPR West in Culver City, Calif. Previously, she explored the future with her video series, Future You with Elise Hu, and served as the founding bureau chief and International Correspondent for NPR's Seoul office. She was based in Seoul for nearly four years, responsible for the network's coverage of both Koreas and Japan, and filed from a dozen countries across Asia.