After Me Comes the Flood by Sarah Perry

John Cole leaves his book shop one day with the intent to visit his brother. He gets in his car and drives. When he stops at an old house far from the beaten path, the last thing he expected was for them to be expecting him. He’s greeted by name and they say they’ve been waiting for him.

But, not really, since they were actually expecting Jon Coules. Close enough, right? The name Jon is printed on the suitcases and boxes that have already arrived upstairs. They call him John/Jon. And no one seems to know what this other man is supposed to look like.

John takes the place of the other Jon, who appears to be delayed in reaching his destination. But while here, John will have to figure out if the people he’s staying with are crazier than he is while avoiding being exposed as a fraud.

He writes in the other Jon’s journal.

“I’m writing this in a stranger’s room on a broken chair at an old school desk.”

-Sarah Perry, After Me Comes the Flood (opening line)

Hester is the self-named ugly old lady who seems to be in charge of everyone’s care. There’s Walker, the cranky old man who’s becoming suspicious. Clare is young but acts even younger. Then there’s her mysterious brother Alex who dreads the dam breaking. And Elijah the former preacher. And Eve the piano player.

So why is this eclectic collection of people hoarded up in this remote house?

Should John turn around and go back to his old life?

What happens if they find out he’s not the real Jon Coules they were expecting?

Why can’t he seem to leave?

I found this book interesting. It exists in an almost dream-like state. A dry, rainless place. The birds have disappeared. The people are a bit off. There’s a strange name carved into the furniture. No one can really explain to John why they are there.

But then the secrets start to reveal themselves and John and the reader learn together why this family-type group exists. It’s almost a mystery, almost an alternate reality, almost another dimension.

I’m not even sure how to categorize this novel, but that’s what has made it unique. I never knew what to expect next.

“She heard their voices almost at the door–alone and no one sees me–and put the glass eye back in its place. Wet from her mouth it looked more alive than ever; she turned off the lights and went down the hall to the kitchen, calling them home.”

-Sarah Perry, After Me Comes the Flood

There were no major twists and turns, but enough character action to keep things going. It felt almost like peering into the windows of another family’s house for the week. Oh, yea, all of the events happen over one week too.

Be prepared for an ending that is upsetting. I won’t spoil anything further.

I just get the feeling that other readers will connect with John like I did. That little voice in the back of your mind that occasionally says, ‘Run away from the real world. Just drive away and don’t look back. See what else is out there. Don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself.’

Overall, I liked this book enough to review it. Mainly, it was just so different from anything else that I wanted to delve a little deeper. If you want a clear-cut story, this isn’t it. It’s strange, it’s random, it doesn’t exactly make sense. So just go with it.

English author Sarah Perry has now released four books:

  • After Me Comes the Flood (2014)
  • The Essex Serpent (2016)
  • The Melmoth (2018)
  • Essex Girls (2020)

I’m hoping for more from Perry. Thankfully, I’ll be able to read her other three books while I wait for her fifth (fingers crossed!). Keep an eye out for the TV adaptation of The Essex Serpent starring Claire Danes.

Even though The Essex Serpent seems to be her most popular, I want to read Essex Girls next. It is her only non-fiction. It comes in at only 96 pages but should be a daring treasure trove of women’s opinions that should be celebrated.

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