“Whose fault do you think it was?” he said. I stood in my kitchen, wanting to explain, careful not to, while he told me we’d marched one too many times, written one too many letters, screamed one too many words. “You women. You need to be taught a lesson.”
I don’t even remember how I stumbled on this book. I think it had a lot of buzz when it first came on the scene but people backed away from it because Christians did not like the way they were portrayed in the book. Anyway, I found the premise super interesting and decided to give it a shot.
This book is a dystopian novel set in an American society where women have been silenced. They are only allowed to be seen and not heard. They are assigned 140 words a day and that is all. They are not allowed passports, not allowed to work and school for women is radically different (only allowed to learn basic math and home economics). It’s quite obvious this book was published to make a commentary on the current political climate. Definitely no subtlety here.
At the beginning, a few people managed to get out. Some crossed the border into Canada; others left on boats for Cuba, Mexico, the Islands. It didn’t take long for the authorities to set up checkpoints, and the wall separating Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas from Mexico itself had already been built, so the egress stopped fairly quickly. “We can’t have our citizens, our families, our mothers and fathers, fleeing,” the President said in one of his early addresses
The main character, Jean Mcclellan does not make it out in time with her family and is stuck in America with 140 words a day. She’s a world renowned doctor and one day the President’s brother gets into an accident. She is called upon to help complete the research she had started before being relegated to the kitchen.
The first half of this book is very good, I was intrigued. In fact, I got panic attacks at some point and had to put it down. The imagery of women having no say in the society made me angry and extremely anxious and then seeing those women punished by electroshock every time they went over their allowed word limit was terrible and made me cringe. Girls being sent to camps for having sex while the boys got off without any punishment made me rage. Gay couples were either sent to prison or forced to say they were cured and marry members of the opposite sex. It was such imagery overload.
“My fault started two decades ago, the first time I didn’t vote, the umpteen times I told Jackie I was too busy to go on one of her marches or make posters or call my congressmen.”
After a while though, it’s very obvious that the writer lost some of her zeal. It was like, all the lofty ideas she started this novel with, just collapsed into melodrama filled with love affairs and pseudo scientific nonsense. Honestly, I skimmed the last 50% of the book because I just couldn’t believe what it had disintegrated to. The main character becomes very unlikable and she makes so many excuses for her son’s shitty sexist beliefs about women, even before women were assigned the 140 word limit. She had a very “boys will be boys” attitude when it came to her own son until those beliefs actually became real and affected her way of life.
“We’re on a slippery slide to prehistory, girls. Think about it. Think about where you’ll be—where your daughters will be—when the courts turn back the clock. Think about words like ‘spousal permission’ and ‘paternal consent.’ Think about waking up one morning and finding you don’t have a voice in anything.”
I really enjoyed reading about the little girl in this book. It’s funny how people can easily become indoctrinated into their own slavery. Even when Jean makes a deal with the President to let her and her daughter out of the 140 word limit in exchange for her work, it takes a minute before the little girl could exercise her freedom of speech. She had been born into this system and already saw nothing wrong with it and saw it as normal. She finally got a taste of freedom and had difficulty embracing it. It was a very compelling story line and I wish she had stuck to more of those types of stories, which would have made the book so much better.
I still very much recommend this book. I enjoyed it still and gave it 3 stars on Goodreads. I have recommended it to people who have enjoyed it immensely. Also, I’m Christian and I wasn’t offended but if you easily are, maybe skip this one.