Clade – a group of organisms believed to have evolved from a common ancestor.
James Bradley has created a hyper-realistic climate fiction novel. He has taken the definition of clade and applied it to the Leith family. We follow three generations of the Leith family and those they are connected to as they navigate a warming Earth and the drastic consequences that come with it.
While Bradley sets these characters on a dying Earth, he doesn’t spend much time exploring what’s happening but rather shows us the characters reactions to the dangerously changing landscape. Adam Leith obsesses over the climate while his partner Ellie undergoes IVF treatments. Though their daughter Summer means the world to Adam, him and Ellie drift apart as the Earth seems to unglue from the seams. When Summer disappears to Europe, Adam braves the devastating flooding to find her living in a shake with a six year old son. They battle to get out while Ellie is immersing herself in learning about the dying bee colony for an art installation.
Clade could be described as a collection of short stories as each chapter moves through each characters point of view at different times of their life, propelling the plot forward. What I saw of these characters is, even as the world is in turmoil, the mundaneness of life remains. You worry about money and putting a roof over your families head, spouses fight and break up, teens are full of angst and prefer the virtual world to reality. When the world is dying faster than we can stop it, yelling at dad or dancing in a virtual rave is an intrinsic human behavior that doesn’t disappear when faced with life altering challenges.
Clade is written beautifully. Brandley follows not only the destruction of the world, but the turmoil of family. It’s a shame he didn’t give us more. I would have gladly followed the Leith family in more detail rather than snippets. There are themes of loss and redemption and survival, but I wanted a deeper look at them.
By: Emily Coleman