When She Wokeby Hillary Jordan
Bellwether Prize winner Hillary Jordan’s provocative new novel, When She Woke, tells the story of a stigmatized woman struggling to navigate an America of a not-too-distant future, where the line between church and state has been eradicated and convicted felons are no longer imprisoned and rehabilitated but chromedtheir skin color is genetically/i>… See more details below
Bellwether Prize winner Hillary Jordan’s provocative new novel, When She Woke, tells the story of a stigmatized woman struggling to navigate an America of a not-too-distant future, where the line between church and state has been eradicated and convicted felons are no longer imprisoned and rehabilitated but chromedtheir skin color is genetically altered to match the class of their crimesand then released back into the population to survive as best they can. Hannah is a Red; her crime is murder. In seeking a path to safety in an alien and hostile world, Hannah unknowingly embarks on a path of self-discovery that forces her to question the values she once held true and the righteousness of a country that politicizes faith.
The New York Times Book Review
—Publishers Weekly [starred review]
“Corrigan’s voice slowly matures as Hannah escapes and grows stronger and more self-reliant in a story that champions the empowerment of women.”
Hannah Payne has committed adultery with respected preacher Aidan Dale, and in Jordan's postmodern world such transgressors are repigmented in a way that suits their crime—through the miracle of modern chemistry. Hannah is turned bright red. Again reminiscent of Hester Prynne's heroism inThe Scarlet Letter, Hannah refuses to name her fellow adulterer, so she bears much of the burden of her guilt and her punishment. The bleak world that Jordan has created has turned back Roe v. Wade, and all abortions are equated with infanticide, so technically she's a murderer as well as an adulterer. (In one clever episode, Hannah is forced to make a cloth doll of her dead child, whom she names "Pearl.") Because Hannah has had a strict religious upbringing, she constantly weighs her "evildoing" against the "rightness" of her deep love for the minister. We trace her journey through various stages of reclamation, starting with a spartan and severe halfway house run by a minister and his domineering wife, whose interest in Hannah's case seems both perverse and voyeuristic. After Hannah runs away from this establishment, she's caught up in a journey that she hopes will eventually lead her back to her family and to Aidan, but the politics get complicated when she links up with some radical feminists who support the right to choose and whose aim in life is to help those they feel have been wrongfully stigmatized. Things start to become even more sexually muddled when Hannah begins to have feelings for one of the feminists and has a brief fling.
Jordan manages to open up powerful feminist and political themes without becoming overly preachy—and the parallels with Hawthorne are fun to trace.
- Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
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- 5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.10(d)
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