Red Clocks by Leni Zumas
I read it as a: hardback
Source: my own library
Length: 351 pp
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Thoughts: What an interesting novel and writing style. I’ve heard it described as The Handmaid’s Tale for the 21st century. I’m not sure it’s quite that, but it does tell an important and terrifying story, made all the more frightening because it is one I can very easily see happening.
In a future-state America, the fucking old white Republican men have won and overturned Roe v Wade, and a personhood amendment has been passed. Abortion for any reason is illegal in all states, and any kind of fertilized egg has the same protection under law as existing, full grown humans. IVF is also outlawed because fertilized embryos can’t consent to being moved and they can’t consent to who their parents will be. My IQ dropped 10 points just writing that. As if any naturally conceived embryo has a say in who their parents will be. Most of us would probably swap out at least one of our parents if we did have a say as embryos. But I’m sure we all know at least one person in real life who thinks this should be reality. In Zumas’ novel, it has come to pass.
The story is told from the perspective of five different women, all of whom have differing relationships to pregnancy in this horrifying dystopia. Each has a name, but she is referred to mostly by her role. There is the Wife, who is stuck in a marriage she no longer enjoys, with two kids she loves but isn’t really sure are worth having given up a promising law career to have; the Daughter, adopted and doted upon, a math whiz, and incidentally pregnant at 15; the Biographer, a high school teacher desperate for a baby of her own, but single, unable under the new laws to adopt unless she’s married, and now biologically unable to have one of her own; the Explorer, a 19th century woman who studied ice and who is the subject of the Biographer and who wanted nothing more than to be taken seriously in her field, but was scorned and dismissed because she was a woman; and the Mender, a herbalist and hedge-witch, who will provide herbal remedies for what ails you, up to and including an inconveniently full uterus. Each character is connected in surprising and intricate ways in a well crafted narrative. My favorite was naturally the Mender. My least favorite was the Explorer, mostly because I just didn’t find much to identify with about her, but I also really didn’t like the Biographer. I thought she was weak and helpless. If you want something that bad and you know your time is running out, be bold and do more to get it. Instead, she was meek and retiring and I just didn’t care for her at all. However, in the end, she seemed like she’d had enough already and was ready to take on more of the world and possibly join the resistance and change things, so maybe there was hope for her.
Overall, I thought this was a beautifully written and terrifying glimpse into the ways in which women’s lives weave together. It is something that should worry any thinking person who has any woman in their life they care about.