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WHEN SHE WOKE By: Hillary Jordan October 10, 2011

Posted by lycan librarian in book reviews, Books and reading.

     This futuristic reimagining of THE SCARLET LETTER is a magnificent and thought-provoking novel. Merging age-old prejudices and the pompousness of authority with a technology that probably isn’t very far in the future makes for a terrifying and all too realistic premise. In this world, only the most violent criminals serve their time in jail. Others, the Chromes, are dyed and thrust into society where they are ostracized. Hannah, the protagonist, aborted her baby in a time after a plague severely reduced the population and the procedure was made illegal. We meet Hannah when she wakes up in prison with her skin dyed bright red. She refused to name the father of the baby, a famous, married pastor and also refuses to reveal her abortionist. She serves her term, goes to a religious halfway house where she is treated as if she is still in prison, so decides to leave. Her family abandons her and she can’t know who to trust as she strives to make her way into Canada, a place where she can no longer be monitored and  forced to serve her full sixteen year sentence with bright red skin.

      The book explores abortion and women’s rights over their own bodies, politics, religion and other like and aggravating subjects, and is an interesting reflection of the nature of man. But the characters seemed either very good, very bad, or quite similar to each other. Otherwise, there are no complaints. It is fast paced, and certainly a page turner, although the section in the halfway house was the most intriguing and it was too bad the book didn’t spend more time there.

     This novel is being compared to Margaret Atwood’s THE HANDMAIDEN’S TALE, and I would agree with that assessment, but only in the first half of the book. It is worth a read and a recommendation.



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