This book has been creating a buzz EVERYWHERE. Red Clocks is a novel that is perfectly matched for the political climate in America today, and the state of affairs when it comes to the legalization of abortion and the ease of getting this service. This novel has been compared to A Handmaid’s Tale, which is the first book that I read by Margaret Atwood (and one of my favourite books of all time). I knew I had to read Red Clocks so I bought it as soon as I could. Here is my review:
Synopsis (back of the book): In this ferociously imaginative novel, abortion is once again illegal in America, in-vitro fertilization is banned, and the Personhood Amendment grants rights of life, liberty, and property to every embryo. In a small Oregon fishing town, five very different women navigate these new barriers alongside age-old questions surrounding motherhood, identity, and freedom.
Ro, a single high-school teacher, is trying to have a baby on her own, while also writing a biography of Eivør, a little-known 19th-century female polar explorer. Susan is a frustrated mother of two, trapped in a crumbling marriage. Mattie is the adopted daughter of doting parents and one of Ro’s best students, who finds herself pregnant with nowhere to turn. And Gin is the gifted, forest-dwelling homeopath, or “mender,” who brings all their fates together when she’s arrested and put on trial in a frenzied modern-day witch hunt.
Review: The scenario that is imagined in this book is not as far-fetched as I would like. Considering the political climate in America and the number of obstacles that are in the way for any woman seeking an abortion, I can easily see a future where abortion is banned, and Planned Parenthood no longer exists. This is what drew me to this novel; I wanted to see how these women would live and struggle under these conditions.
I think that this novel strives to look at motherhood and the identity of a woman through various different lenses. By looking at these concepts through the women, not only do we get to see their own thought process, we also get an understanding of how people around them feel about these issues. This book is in no way skewed to one side; both anti-abortion and pro-abortion sentiments are voiced and it is easy for the reader to understand both perspectives.
While the topic and the ideas mentioned in this book were interesting, I didn’t love this book. To me, this wasn’t really a story; it was far too focused on the concepts than it was in the development of the women. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it made the whole book far too cerebral for me. I also didn’t feel like there was anything very strong or definitive being said. Everything was a little too experimental, and I prefer if an author sticks to a style and goes with it throughout. In spite of its choppiness, I liked the way the author switched between the different voices of the women in the story; it added some variance to the writing. I also thought it was interesting to not actually give these women names in the beginning of the chapter; they are called “biographer” or “wife” or “daughter” or “mender” based on the way they identify themselves and their role in life. While it did lead to a bit of emotional detachment with the characters, it allowed the reader to view them as a collective, which was probably the intent here.
I think that this novel explored some very interesting ideas and was well-balanced when considering all of the different arguments surrounding abortion and the right to life. However, it didn’t really come off as a story and I found it hard to feel that emotional pull to any character. Overall, I would give this a solid 3/5 stars.