Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Reading: When She Woke, Hillary Jordan

When She Woke
Hillary Jordan
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (October 4, 2011)
354 pages
ISBN13: 9781565126299

Woah. I finished this book in two days. Set in a dystopian future, but similarities to the present day are striking.

The book lightly riffs of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. Hannah, the main character, has an affair with a Reverend, ends up pregnant and has an abortion. This is illegal with no exception. She's arrested, on trial and lands in jail. But-there is this thing called "melachroming" where a virus is injected into the criminal that turns your skin whatever color correlates to your crime; Red for murder, yellow for misdemeanors, blue for abuse, etc. They can then be tracked through a device, like GPS, I guess. Once you are chromed, you basically have no life-it's obvious that you are some kind of criminal. They become the pariah's of the town.

The story is set in Texas-a hotbed of controversy concerning abortion, state and church separation, women's rights and everything else. All of this is the center of the story. There is something called "Sanctity of Life Laws" in the book which sounds very close to what was proposed in 2011- H. R. 23, "Sanctity of Human Life." All similar to the "right to Life" and "fetal pain" ideology. Separation between church and state is non existent here; it seeps into every aspect. There is a position in the government that is known as "secretary of faith", which is taken up by the Reverend. Faith and religion are inserted directly into the government. How far away is the U.S. from that at this point?

 One of the scenes that was hard for me to read was when Hannah was in the "Straight Path Center." It is a center run by "the church" specifically for women who have had abortions. It basically serves as a "shaming center" rather than a safe house or "rehab" center. One of the most disturbing parts here was when the women sat in a circle, having made a doll (and name it) to represent the baby they aborted. That was a more cruel punishment than having been "chromed", in my opinion. Anyway.It was an excellent book and people should just read it.

I love Algonquin. They put out some of the best books. I loved the cover of this particular edition. The red haze connecting it to the red of "melachroming" and just the feel of the cover itself.

Take a look at Hillary Jordan's website
You can read more of my reviews at Goodreads

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