By Leni Zumas
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
ISBN 13: 9780316434812
Five women. One question. What is a woman for?
In this ferociously imaginative novel, abortion is once again illegal in America, in-vitro fertilization is banned, and the Personhood Amendment grants rights of life, liberty, and property to every embryo. In a small Oregon fishing town, five very different women navigate these new barriers alongside age-old questions surrounding motherhood, identity, and freedom.
Ro, a single high-school teacher, is trying to have a baby on her own, while also writing a biography of Eivør, a little-known 19th-century female polar explorer. Susan is a frustrated mother of two, trapped in a crumbling marriage. Mattie is the adopted daughter of doting parents and one of Ro’s best students, who finds herself pregnant with nowhere to turn. And Gin is the gifted, forest-dwelling homeopath, or “mender,” who brings all their fates together when she’s arrested and put on trial in a frenzied modern-day witch hunt.
2018 Popsugar Reading Challenge Prompt: A book about feminism (I am counting this even though it is fiction because it certainly solicited some serious thoughts in regards to female rights and equality).
Following the lives of 4 women & a side character, Red Clocks presents a dystopian setting that explores the loss of women’s reproductive rights through a very unique narration that gradually exposes the varying impacts within society. Misogynistic politicians have made abortion and in vitro fertilization illegal with the enactment of the Personhood Amendment, going as far to charge lab technicians who drop specimens with manslaughter. Women who miscarry are forced to hold funerals and suffer the full cost. The Pink Wall now prevents women from crossing into Canada and obtaining abortion. Any woman doing so will be arrested and returned to their state for trial. And now on January 15th the Every Child Needs Two Act is about to take effect refusing single parent adoption.
First conjecture upon reading the synopsis would be to liken Red Clock’s to Atwoods’s The Handmaid’s Tale. They both approach the relevant and terrifying topic of societies where women are no longer equal and have lost the right to govern their own bodies. In that they are both powerful and necessary. But my experiences for both while rewarding, were unique.
Here Leni Zumas introduces us to five women:
Gin, “The Mender” – an isolated homeopath who lives alone in the forest and offers women services that women are no longer able to obtain. Viewed by the locale as a witch.
Susan, the Wife – A mother of two who finds herself disgusted with the situation of her marriage but unable to confront her husband.
Mattie, the Daughter – An adopted young girl who discovers she is pregnant with a child she does not wish to keep. Yet, current laws prohibit her from seeking an abortion.
Ro, the Biographer – A single, aging teacher and writer who wishes to become a mother. Insemination has been unsuccessful and her window for adoption is drawing to a close thanks to the Every Child Needs Two Act.
Eivør, a Polar Explore – A secondary character (not without significance) that is introduced as the subject of Ro’s current biography project.
It is through alternating chapters and perspectives of each woman’s life that Zumas presents us with an intelligent narrative and character study that is strangely devoid of emotion at times. While this can make for a taxing read, it soon becomes highly effective as we find that we are viewing this dystopian society as a reality.
Presented in a small Oregon town, there is nothing incredible occurring outside of the horrific laws in place and coming into effect. We are simply experiencing it as it is. As a part of life. And that alone is what makes Red Clocks not only compelling and effective but deeply unsettling. It blurs the lines between fiction and potential reality, daring the reader to face a possible future and ask what a woman is truly for.
Zumas’ writing is blunt and brazen, but also stylistic and enveloping. Though this is a heavy read, it is a fast one. I found myself unable to put Red Clocks down. I respected each character for their own strengths and flaws. I admired the author for encouraging me to step out of my comfort zone. Aptly titled with a fitting cover, I am recommending this one to all!
Read over several cups of Darjeeling tea.