Book Review: The Annual Migration of Clouds by Premee Mohamed

The Annual Migration of Clouds – Premee Mohamed (ECW Press, 2021)

I have nothing to look to as an example, I have no one to model myself after, only those who have died and those who have abandoned us.

Premee Mohamed, The Annual Migration of Clouds, pg 36

Reid Graham has just received a letter. She has been accepted into the Dome, a sort of university, an advanced school, a promise of a different and better life. Reid lives a subsistence-style existence, dwelling in a once-upon-a-time school campus with an assortment of others, including her mother and her best friend Henryk. Reid has lived her entire life here, growing up in a not-so-distant future where society and much of the environment have been destroyed, presumably by many of the actions in which we all engage right now.

Reid lives in a world one or two generations (the timeline is a little confusing) past the change. Communities have developed, groups of people who have learned to farm what they can and make do with the garbage left behind. They know that the world used to be different but much of the former knowledge has been lost. There are rumours of this dome however, a place where life is more like what it used to be. When Reid receives her acceptance letter she is overjoyed at the prospect of something more. But no one who has ever left their community has ever returned and Reid and her mother only have each other. Can she really leave behind everything she knows for something so uncertain?

…you feel it sometimes, rage filling you like an updraft of hot air from a fire, lifting you from the shoulders or blowing through you like a tornado – rage that we missed it, missed it all, and rage at those who got to have it in the specific way that took it from us.

The Annual Migration of Clouds, pg 102

Mohamed’s work joins a quickly-growing genre of environmental fiction. It is a scathing commentary on what we’re doing to our planet and what we leave behind for future generations. I’ve noticed that a recurring theme seems to be rage from the characters of these books; rage at us, now, for living the way we do. As quoted above, Reid isn’t free from this anger but having growing up knowing nothing else, she also has an optimism that makes the reader cheer for her. While some around her scoff at the idea of the dome, she longs for something more. And more than anything she longs for the dream that things can change, that they do not need to always simply exist but that humans can strive for something better. This too is incredibly relatable.

A major unique feature of this story is a disease called Cad. It is described as something like a fungus, a parasite that dwells within people, steadily growing, showing itself on its host’s skin. Reid has this disease and so does her mother and many others around them. We learn the disease existed before the fall of society as we know it and is passed from parent to child but because it doesn’t always show itself until later in life, many parents pass it along without realizing it. Cad seems to allow its host to live a largely normal life but it also strives to protect its host. This means that Reid never knows if the choices she makes are her own or because of Cad. Is she choosing safety or is her disease? It’s an interesting question and adds an interest dimension to the story because it makes many of the characters’ motives a lot more ambiguous. Reid hates the disease, hates that she cannot distinguish herself from this other thing dwelling within her.

I had expected this to be a story of a physical journey – a girl leaving her home and striking out for somewhere new. Instead, the whole thing takes place over just a few days, as Reid struggles with her decision. It’s a sort of coming-of-age story and although the setting is strange and foreign, a lot of the emotions and thoughts that Reid has will be familiar to readers who were once young and thought of doing something no one around them had ever done.

7 thoughts on “Book Review: The Annual Migration of Clouds by Premee Mohamed”

  1. Wow! This sounds terrific. I can imagine people in the future being angry with our generation and the generation before ours. I haven’t read anything in this genre yet but hope this book comes my way.

    1. It really does leave you wondering! At the same time, it felt like the right place to end, like a clear changing point in Reid’s life.

  2. I remember really liking this book too – and it’s interesting you note the rage that seems to connect all this environmental fiction, and it’s completely believable and understandable too. Especially because the younger generations now (and i have no doubt this will only increase) are already upset about the earth they are inheriting. This anger is completely natural, and I think it’s what motivates so many people now, which I suppose is a good thing…

    1. I think we see a lot of that anger around now and it’s natural to assume it would be even more present in future generations. The more we understand about how we’re harming the planet, the harder it is to excuse our ongoing behaviour.

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