My absolute far and away favorite Margaret Atwood book is The Blind Assassin, but that’s like the dessert at the end of an excellent meal. You have to work up to it. Handmaid’s Tale is another solid choice, and my own introduction to Margaret Atwood’s awesomenaucity, but I’ve already reviewed it twice for CBR (I think – definitely once). I love so many of her novels, but for different reasons. So I’m going with The Tent, because the best way to experience Atwood is by enjoying the variety of her writing styles – her mastery of mundane everyday life, the entanglements of interpersonal relationships, her ability to bring her own perspective to well-worn tales, and the way she – like all the best science fiction writers – extrapolates the present into the future, and explores how people would truly react to the extraordinary (much like now, likely not by giving in to the better angels of their nature).
But, real talk: I did actually buy this because I loved the short story “Gertrude Talks Back” and that’s actually a part of Good Bones. (Whoops). I don’t want to give too much away but there are some serious Lady Olenna vibes in that story that I am HERE for. So there may be better intros to Atwood’s short stories, but this is as good as any I’ve read.
Only a writer as strong as Atwood could write about cat heaven, “three novels (she) won’t write soon, and “bring back mom” (I forgot how fabulously Atwood writes about the experience of womanhood without sentiment or glorification; especially now that I am a parent the part of Handmaid’s Tale dealing with OfFred’s mother hits completely differently – I regularly think about how everything that has happened to me basically up until now is a future boring story to my kid). I’d expect nothing less. You may not like all of these stories, but you’re almost certain to like one, and there’s more where that came from.