This is the May book club pick of my local library, and I was a little disappointed only because I wasn’t looking forward to rereading it. I am a huuuuuge Atwood fan and was hoping to dig into something new. Well, the joke is on me because I realized that I had somehow conflated this book with Anita Diamant’s “The Red Tent” and I had somehow never read it. For shame.
And how appropriate to kick off a review of “The Handmaid’s Tale” with a reflection on shame. In Atwood’s reality, set in modern times in the U.S., women have had their autonomy and freedom stripped away and now spend their lives in one of a few roles, essentially either policing each other or being policed. Men are the ruling class and religious faiths have been stamped out in favor of a puritanical interpretation of biblical text. Actually, the puritans had a hell of a lot more fun
Our storyteller spends her life in this new world order vacillating between trying to make her way in this horrifying reality and reflecting on her past life with her husband and daughter. The shame she feels for past wasted opportunities when she was afforded what would now be considered lavish privileges is gut wrenching. In addition, she wrestles with even more shame for present choices she must make for her survival.
It is a dire existence and a tricky read as the tone is uneven by design. It is very believable as a hurriedly assembles memoir of someone who doesn’t know what the next moment will bring. I’m glad to have read it, definitely a book that will stick with me for a while. But I’ll probably skip the Hulu series because wowzers, I just don’t think I can.