This book was immediately compared to The Handmaid’s Tale and for good reason: the plot centers around women’s reproductive rights. The biggest difference between Margaret Atwood’s award winning novel and this new work by Leni Zumas is that Red Clocks does not depict a dystopia. Food and media are not rationed; everyone goes to school; cursing is normal. In fact, this novel takes place very much in present day or, more accurately, about two years in the future.
Life for the characters in Red Clocks is pretty much like life now, with one distinction: the Personhood Amendment was recently passed in the US, which grants rights of life, liberty, and property to every embryo. That means abortion is now illegal in all 50 states and IVF is forbidden. Further, the Every Child Needs Two law is about to go into effect that will require all babies be adopted into two-parent households. It is easy – scary easy – to see how this could happen.
These laws affect all women differently and we are introduced to four of them who are all at different life stages. There’s Ro, The Biographer, an unmarried teacher who is ready for a child to help fulfill her life; there’s Susan, The Wife, a mother of two who is trying to figure out how to have a happier marriage; there’s Mattie, The Daughter, one of Ro’s students and Susan’s babysitter who finds herself pregnant and clueless as to how to handle it; and then there’s Gin, The Mender, the town freak lives in the woods and secretly heals women of their Oregon town with natural remedies.
Originally I was going to give this book a solid 4 stars because I was really enjoying it. Right up until the last page…I just didn’t love how it ended. The author has crafted a community of women who have the opportunity to realize how closely intertwined they actually are and how they could learn from each other. Sadly, the women never make that connection. There are a few small things (like seeing the term center) that leave me optimistic, but in general I didn’t have an overwhelming sense of hope for society or for these specific women. The pieces are all there – if only there were about 5 more pages to connect them. That said, it’s still a good read and one that definitely makes for good discussion so I’d say pick it up.
3.5 out of 5 stars.