Book Review: When She Woke
I first heard about When She Woke ($24.95, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill) when I was driving home from class, listening to NPR. Hillary Jordan, the author of Mudbound, was giving an interview about her latest novel, and it sounded so intriguing that I placed it on the top of my Christmas “want” list.
A modern day take on Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, When She Woke is about a woman named Hannah Payne, who lives in a distopian society, not very different from our own. A past std epidemic has allowed the rights of women to be extremely altered. Roe v Wade has been overturned, and women who obtain abortions are now prosecuted as murderers. Possibly even worse, a virus has been designed to inject into the skin of criminals; turning the condemned a bright color and therefore informing the public the nature of their crime. Privacy is a thing of the past, and extreme right-wing politics have taken center stage in US government.
Hannah, who has always been a “good Christian girl” is sentenced to several years as a red chrome-the punishment for those found guilty of murder. Refusing to name the father of her terminated fetus, several more years have been added to her sentence. Literally a marked woman, she is forced to deal with the pressing questions she has always had about her faith, culture, and world. Will she survive her sentence, or will she take her life like many red chromes do?
I could not put this book down!! Not only is this book exciting, but it deals with the important issues that seem to be at the forefront of our news. Jordan weaves the issues of women’s rights, gender issues, homosexuality, religion, and privacy seamlessly together.
I read The Bible, and consider myself spiritual. I also consider myself to be a liberal, so the society discribed in the novel read like a total nightmare!
I was very pleased with the way Jordan confronts the way certain branches of Christianity use The Bible to hurt and oppress members of our society, while simultaneously ignoring some of the most important elements of the religion-such as non-judgment, love, forgiveness, and tolerance.
I think this book will speak to anyone who has had a strict religious upbringing; who cares about personal rights; who is nervous about the way technology has completely taken over our society. A quest story, I found myself rooting for Hannah the entire trip. When it was through I was both exhilarated and exhausted.
My grade for this novel? A+.
Has anyone else read When She Woke? What do you think? Let’s discuss.