When I saw Margaret Atwood speak at Northwestern in 2018 (Am I bragging a bit? Yes. It was so cool and she was great and I was in the second rooooow and I continue to not have chill about it) she teased an upcoming announcement and low and behold, it was the sequel to Handmaid’s Tale! I was 60/40 eager/skeptical. I never read the sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird, but of course that release was fraught with drama concerning Lee’s wishes. This was a horse of another color, so I pre-ordered, got my copy and then it subsequently collected a bit of dust. But, we’re here now because I read it! I’m an Atwood devotee, and I’m glad to say I wasn’t disappointed.
There is lots of meat and intrigue in this story, so I’m going to keep my thoughts on content light as to not spoil. There are a number of narrators that we follow, so the storytelling is a departure from the narrative styling of Handmaid’s Tale in that respect, but we are back in Gilead, but instead of the beginning we are at the beginning of the end. I for one was very curious as to the “in between” of the story of The Handmaid’s Tale and the epilogue…how did we get to “after” Gilead? And that period of time is exactly when the sequel takes place.
A quick perusal of Goodreads tells me that some folks weren’t pleased with this book, but I’m not in that camp. One criticism seemed to be that the pacing, storytelling and objective were different from A Handmaid’s Tale, I agree, but my conclusion is that is a good thing. She takes us back to Gilead, but from a new perspective, not just of different characters but of a place of hope.