It is not often that I read a book that leaves me shocked, speechless.
Why This Book?
The Handmaid’s Tale is the first and currently the only Margaret Atwood piece that I have ever read. Recently, I saw a notice in the local paper that she will be reading and signing books at the library. Despite not knowing her work, I added the event to my calendar. I thought I might try to read some of her work. If I did not like her writing, I would listen to the talk and read some of her work, because she is a person that produces work. I respect that.
I noticed Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale popping up on BookTube a lot. It was not until last month that I realized this book is on high school reading lists. Could this have been a classic that I had missed?
Spoiler Free: What the Heck is This Book About?
This book shows us a future in which the U.S. government has been overthrown by extremist. These extremists are intervening due to the overwhelming amount of pollution which is causing infertility, the rapid violence against women, prostitution and availability of pornography. As a result of the Republic of Gilead cleaning up the country, women are no longer allowed to earn money or have money…for their own safety.
We follow a woman called Offred. This is not her name. This is what she is called. She is a handmaid which is a woman assigned to married couples to produce children for them.
Offred shares memories of the times right before the government collapsed and the world changed. She tells us about her new station in this new world and her daily tasks flashing back from time to time to let us know that she was once here with us. She could have easily been your neighbor or sister.
While it is incredibly obvious that this is a book about feminism, it was not obvious to me in the beginning that this book is about humanism.
After reading the final chapter of this book, I found myself rethinking how I approach books about personal experiences. The Diary of Anne Frank comes to mind specifically. It is simple to get separated by paper and ink from these experiences. They are tales. They are stories. But they are stories that could have easily happened to you or me if the circumstances had been just right…or just wrong enough.
The last line of The Handmaid’s Tale created a knot in my stomach that could only be shrank by means of comedy which is exactly what I treated myself with right after I read it.
I find myself recommending this book to people all the time promising them all the while that they will cry and want to volunteer for women’s liberation groups immediately after.
Despite the pain in my gut, I loved this book. It is not often that a book makes a person feel deeply, feel physically about the story. This book did that for me.
I will be buying this terribly emotional book for all of my friends and family.