Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Handmaid's Tale

It's been a long time since I've picked up a book to read and not been able to put it down. I borrowed this one from a friend a few weeks ago but didn't have time to start it until Thursday morning at the dentist. I was hooked after the first two pages. I stayed up well into the night so that I could keep reading and made it just over halfway through. I used it as a distraction while the Twins batted in their half of the inning, and finished it around 1:30 this morning. Oh. My. God. Why didn't I read this sooner?

It was after the catastrophe, when they shot the president and machine-gunned the Congress and blamed it on the Islamic fanatics, at the time.
Keep calm, they said on television. Everything is under control.
I was stunned. Everyone was, I know that. It was hard to believe. The entire government, gone like that. How did they get in, how did it happen?
That was when they suspended the Constitution. They said it would be temporary. There wasn't even any rioting in the streets. People stayed home at night, watching television, looking for some direction. There wasn't even an enemy you could put your finger on.
Look out, said Moira to me, over the phone. Here it comes.
Here what comes? I said.
You wait, she said. They've been building up to this. It's you and me up against the wall, baby. She was quoting an expression of my mother's, but she wasn't intending to be funny.

The last time I devoured a book like this was when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out, so that should tell you something.

Maybe it's because I just read two other dystopian novels for book club last month, but it definitely made me consider what track we're really on, and where our society will be 100 years from now. I kept wondering if this is what they felt like back when 1984 came out - knowing that it's a fictional work, knowing that the author went for the extremes, but still wondering in the back of their heads if it could, in fact, be possible. In fact, the most chilling part about this particular vision is that it's really almost a reversion to the past, when women were seen as property.

Parts of it were particularly heart-wrenching, especially having a child, myself, and knowing what the experience of labor and delivery is like. The thought of having to then hand my child over to someone else gives me an awful pit in my stomach. I want to go read everything else she's ever written! If you're looking for an excellent read (and if you're female, I suppose), then you should definitely check this one out.

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