A first-person narrative of a woman diseffected by the casual destructive savagery of humanity, Surfacing is essential and thought-provoking reading, though probably too subtle and bleak to find itself listed among Atwood's more famous and popular novels.
In flight from the dreary confines of human conventions and institutions, the protagonist is slowly 'becoming-animal' as she becomes enchanted with the natural order of the wild. It is a narrative that would appeal to any fans of Angela Carter's lycanthrope (werewolf) stories, as Atwood attempts to express the appeal of being beast (of feeling properly alive) rather than merely subsisting, dulled & compromised, in the hollow roles society offers us.
The narrative is vivid, politics and personalities are easily familiar to us - though they are never one-dimensional or stereotypical - which is important because we are meant to empathise with how the protagonist becomes estranged from her companions as well as civilisation.* They are to read her 'sortie' as her going mad, we are to understand the reasons for her outlook and for her breakdown and withdrawl into the wilderness.
This is an accessible but serious novel you'd probably want to purchase for someone who has already read one or two of the more celebrated Atwood titles - but in time it will stand out as one of the most evocative and satisfying...
(* Note: this isn't in any way to imply that 'Surfacing' is somehow a cross between 'The Good Life' and 'Grizzly Adams'!!)