cover image After Me Comes the Flood

After Me Comes the Flood

Sarah Perry. HarperCollins, $16.99 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-266640-6

In Melmoth author Perry’s eerie, peculiar latest (first published in the U.K. in 2014), an anxious London bookshop owner assumes a new identity among a set of mentally disturbed strangers. After feeling oppressed by the summer heat, John Cole closes up the shop and decides to visit his brother in Norfolk. On the way, John gets lost and suffers a panic attack, his car breaks down, and then, following a path through the forest, he discovers a house full of people who claim they have been awaiting his arrival. Initially unable to admit he’s not the “Jon Coules” they’d been expecting, he finds himself captivated by the group of old friends— particularly Eve and Alex, both in their 20s—who know each other from their past stays at St. Jude’s psychiatric ward. Hester, the mischievous, much older ringleader, vows to help the others improve themselves, while Alex, alarmed by anonymous letters he’s received about a nearby dam, takes dangerous nightly swims to check for signs of impending floods. Over the week spent at the house, John’s lust for Eve grows and he settles into his borrowed identity as Coules, and Perry teases out questions of sanity, love, and faith. Though the slow pace will test readers’ patience, the novel succeeds in building a strange world in the English woods. Perry’s fans will want to take a look. Agent: Susan Golomb, Writers House. (Mar.)