Categorized as “cli-fi,” or climate fiction, A Diary in the Age of Water depicts an interesting story about four generations of women, and a cautionary tale about what might happen if we fail to respect the importance of water. The prologue of the book takes us to the “dying forest of the north. The last boreal forest in the world,” (p. 5) where a four-armed, blue-skinned entity called Kyo is seeking to resolve one last issue before leaving the planet along with a cadre of her cohorts. We learn that a catastrophe triggered by the Water Twins, unleashing the power of water, caused storms that eradicated humanity from the planet. A diary Kyo unearths in the archives gives us deeper insight into the events leading up to that calamity.
Segments of the diary comprise the meat of the novel. Though the book is clearly a work of fiction, the diary sections, which begin with an entry made April 12, 2045, also weave in facts about water and the environment. Each diary entry is prefaced with a quotation, many of them coming from Robert Wetzel’s Limnology. The diary’s “author,” a character named Lynna, uses these quotations as a springboard for her musings. For example, in a section introduced with a quote from Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, Lynna notes:
With exports, water uptakes, and associated loss, the water levels are steadily declining. Once lake levels drop below eighty percent of their historic volume, they will reach a tipping point. After that, the water will never return. That’s how the Great Lakes will become the Great Puddles.” (p. 26)
A Diary in the Age of Water commands reader interest on a number of levels. There is a sense of mystery as we read Lynna’s accounts, seeking to understand what happened to trigger the cataclysmic change that resulted in humanity’s extinction. In the novel, control of Canada’s water resources has been commandeered by the United States, which has diverted a substantial portion of Canada’s western waterways to feed to the southwestern US. Meanwhile, water resources are also being exploited by unscrupulous companies, and environmental de-regulation has allowed corporations to desecrate the environment. The story of evolving water shortages, resulting in stiffer and stiffer quotas, provides a chilling but believable portrayal of what might happen as fresh water becomes scarcer.
Lynna’s personal and professional story as told through her diary is also of interest. She is honest about her own shortcomings, berating herself in her diary with regrets about things she has done in the past, and fretting about her daughter Hilde and about the future of the planet. She also shares memories of happier times spent with her mother Una.
The factual content is explained in an easy-to-understand manner. Line diagrams scattered through the book help to illustrate the concepts. The fact that author Nina Munteanu is herself a freshwater scientists lends the novel a deeper authenticity.
There’s a sense of sadness surrounding the events as Lynna witnesses her quality of life steadily eroding as a result of the environment’s deterioration. That doesn’t mean A Diary in the Age of Water is a depressing read; at least, I did not find it so. Munteanu uses wry humor and irony to good effect, adding to the enjoyability of the book.
Water is one of the most critical factors affecting our well-being, and ultimately, our survival. Munteanu’s novel provides a cautionary note for what might happen if we fail to pay attention to this precious resource. The good news is that the possible future depicted in A Diary in the Age of Water is still far enough away that we can avoid the grim outcomes depicted if we have the will to do so.
- Paperback : 328 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1771337370
- ISBN-13 : 978-1771337373
- Publisher: Inanna Poetry & Fiction Series (June 18, 2020)
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Lisa Timpf is a retired HR and communications professional who lives in Simcoe, Ontario. Her writing has appeared in New Myths, Star*Line, The Future Fire, Triangulation: Habitats, and other venues. Lisa’s speculative haibun collection, In Days to Come, is available from Hiraeth Publishing. You can find out more about Lisa’s writing at http://lisatimpf.blogspot.com/.