"[A] lyrical and beautifully observed reflection on women's lives.... Highly absorbing.... Zumas is a skillful writer, expertly keeping each of her characters in balanced motion, never allowing one to dominate the rest. Her cunning device of not revealing the name of each character in the sections she narrates grants us a multidimensional perspective on all four women, highlighting their roles in one another's stories. It's a beautiful metaphor for the interdependence of women's lives."Naomi Alderman, New York Times Book Review
"In an alarming peek into a dystopian future, a group of women navigates family and motherhood in an America that has outlawed abortion, in vitro fertilization, and adoption by single women. Each of the interwoven story lines is complex and heartbreaking in its own way, and overall it's a fascinating and unsettling exploration of the limits society can place on women's bodies."Samantha Irby, Marie Claire
"The story is set in a small Oregon town in a future that Mike Pence can almost see if he stands on his pew...This provocative exploration of female longing, frustration and determination couldn't be more timely, and yet there's nothing fleeting about it. With Red Clocks, Zumas has written a novel that's political without being doctrinaire, that expands the dimensions of our most pressing social debate."Ron Charles, Washington Post
"Intricate and alarming, Leni Zumas' riveting second novel, Red Clocks, arrives just in time....Wry and urgent, defiant and stylish, Zumas' braided tale follows the intertwined fates of four women whose lives this law irrevocably alters....Lit up with verbal pyrotechnics and built with an admirably balanced structure, Red Clocks is undeniably gorgeously written.... Indispensable."Chicago Tribune
"Zumas has written a work that's preoccupied with what it means to live inside a woman's body, and to exist in that body in a world that's long viewed it with fear and unease.... A thoughtful, complicated picture of womanhood-and a fierce argument for individual choice.... Red Clocks is relentlessly interrogative but always humane.... Red Clocks instead is deeply, intentionally personal. Rather than trafficking in sweeping generalizations or one-size-fits-all dictates, it focuses on the uniqueness of all of its characters, who are nevertheless linked by the immutability of their bodies. The familiarity of the book's world, just a step removed from our own reality, is the most shocking thing about it."
"An enchanting ramble through the myths and mundanities of womanhood.... "Red Clocks" ends up feeling like an enjoyable puzzle that is fundamentally unsolvable, some of its pieces playfully misplaced along the way. The fractured narrative leaves us to connect the dots between these disparate characters, all of whom make bleak compromises because they - like so many women throughout history - have so few options available to them."Los Angeles Times
"Hilarious, terrifying, and masterfulthis pitch-perfect, timely novel reflects the horror and absurdity of our political landscape with a brilliance that ensures the book's timelessness. A poignant, wickedly sharp classic."Alissa Nutting, author of Made for Love and Tampa
"A cautionary work of far-sighted fiction.... Spooky-good."
"This highly absorbing novel imagines a near future of America in which abortion is illegal in all 50 states. Zumas has a perfectly tuned ear for the way society relies on a moralizing sentimentalism to restrict women's lives and enforce conformity."New York Times Book Review, Editors Choice
"Leni Zumas here proves she can do almost anything. Her tale feels part Melvillian, part Lydia Davis, part Octavia Butler-but really Zumas's vision is entirely her own. RED CLOCKS is funny, mordant, political, poetic, alarming, and inspiring-not to mention a way forward for fiction now."Maggie Nelson
"Where a lesser writer might have delivered a shrill, one-sided polemic, Zumas draws us into the intersecting lives of five women in a profound exploration of our attitudes toward motherhood, freedom and life itself.... A page-turning plot is rendered in sentences as gorgeous and wise as poems...Be prepared to dog-ear these pages."Oprah.com
"Strange and lovely and luminous. I loved Red Clocks with my whole heart."Kelly Link, author of Magic for Beginners
"In bristling sentences, Zumas shows girls and women defying the excruciating restrictions imposed by both law and culture. Red Clocks is unabashedly political and fiercely humane."Emily Fridlund, author of History of Wolves
"Move over Atwood, Leni Zumas's Red Clocks is a gender roaring tour de force. The bodies of women in Red Clocks are each the site of resistance and revolution. I screamed out loud. I pumped my fist in the air. And I remembered how hope is forged from the ground up, through the bodies of women who won't be buried."Lidia Yuknavitch
"Zumas manages a loose yet consistently engaging tone as she illustrates the extent to which the self-image of modern women is shaped by marriage, career, or motherhood. Dark humor further enhances the novel, making this a thoroughly affecting and memorable political parable."
"The women in this suspenseful book resist. They will not be circumscribed. The effect on the reader is cathartic."Christine Schutt, author of Prosperous Friends
"I have never read stories like Leni Zumas's before and I can't get them out of my head. Her language is real sorcery-it dismantles the world you think you know and takes you to strange, fecund territories of the imagination. Sentence by sentence, Leni creates worlds so vivid and fever-bright that you forget you're reading words on a page and begin to see real plums, scars, black stars lashed to the bottom of canoes. Her characters are girls and boys in bad trouble, who feel as close to you and as far from you as the black sheep in your own family."Karen Russell
"Leni Zumas is a wonder, an alchemist, a witch. She brews a wild elixir in these stories, which take you where you never thought to go. Here are mothers infatuated with astronauts and dragons; here is a girl suckling elvers and owlets. Here is the body unspooling and nibbled at, the body undone and made fast again with the strength of the wish to be loved. Something's timely in these stories and hip, and yet they let us fall out of time. Fall into sorrow and be lifted again. What a blessing-to succumb to Zumas's power, to these gorgeous, beguiling songs."Noy Holland
"Zumas' novel is a reckoning, a warning, and nothing short of a miracle. Don't miss it."
"Zumas is a lyrical polymath of a writer: she loves wordplay and foreign terms, she has an ear for dialogue, and she knows an impressive amount about herbal healing, Arctic exploration, and the part of the U.S. her story is set in...A good story energized by a timely premise."
"Shattering.... With its strong point of view, the novel, in lesser hands, might have been reduced to agitprop, but Zumas has raised it, instead, to the level of literature, which readers will find deeply moving. The characters are beautifully realized, inviting empathy and understanding; the richly realized plot is compulsively readable, and the theme, with its echoes of Margaret Atwood, is never didactic but invites thought and discussion. The result is powerful and timely."
Booklist, starred review
"In language both poetic and political, Zumas presents characters who are strong and determined; each is an individual in her own right. Inevitably, there will be comparisons to Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, but Zumas's work is not nearly as dystopic or futuristic, only serving to make it that much more believable. Highly recommended."Library Journal (starred review)
"Zumas's female characters are resourceful in the ways they resist. Although it has a serious message about how women are valued by society, Red Clocks is essentially a comedy, using humor to highlight the absurdities of authoritarianism and to celebrate self-determination.... Zumas [has] tapped into a newly resurgent literary tradition, one less prophetic than cautionary. They and many of their fellow writers of speculative fiction convey the need to be alert to injustice - and to be prepared to act against it."High Country News
"Intense [and] beautifully crafted....The dialogue is so quick and multilayered as to take one's breath away.... Zumas elucidates, in virtuosic prose, the struggle to be valued running like a power line under every incarnation of feminism. Her talent is electric. Get ready for a shock."The Guardian
"Masterful.... This horror-show of a world is explored through the stories of five women: a single teacher who's using her last opportunities to try to have her own child; a frustrated mother; an adopted teen who finds herself pregnant; an introverted healer who provides illegal services in the woods; and a 19th-century female polar explorer. Their stories are stunning."Bookpage
"[Red Clocks] asks us to rethink what it really means to be female in a world that's written almost exclusively by men.... It is always nice when a novel forces me to revisit the foundation of my values. It's a little bit like rereading your favorite books, every decade or so.... For all its polemics, Red Clocks is actually most notable for the brio of its proseits excellent sense of timing and cadence.... Time's a-ticking, this novel seems to say. Wake up."Fiona Maazel, Bookforum
"The book has a beautiful literary top over a highly relevant science fiction setting."
Zumas's second novel (after The Listeners) presents a not-so-distant future where women's reproductive rights have been denied again. In this future, the passage of the Personhood Amendment has overturned Roe v. Wade, establishing every embryo or fetus as a person possessing all the rights (and thus protections) experienced by the rest of the U.S. citizenry. The narrative follows four women residing in a small coastal Oregon town, each struggling to forge an identity while facing pervasive misogyny. The author amplifies the debate about women's rights by referring to each woman by a noun rather than their proper names. The Mender, the Biographer, the Daughter, and the Wife alternately reveal their intertwined stories. Ro, the Biographer, is also writing a book about the exploits of Eivør, a 19th-century female polar explorer who share these struggles for women's rights to be recognized as legitimate. In language both poetic and political, Zumas presents characters who are strong and determined; each is an individual in her own right. VERDICT Inevitably, there will be comparisons to Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, but Zumas's work is not nearly as dystopic or futuristic, only serving to make it that much more believable. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 7/31/17.]—Faye Chadwell, Oregon State Univ., Corvallis
The lives of five women in a small Oregon town are affected by the outlawing of abortion and an imminent ban on single parenthood.A billboard on the highway to Canada reads, "WON'T STOP ONE, / WON'T START ONE. / CANADA UPHOLDS U.S. LAW!" After the Personhood Amendment grants rights to embryos, the U.S.-Canadian border becomes a "Pink Wall." Women crossing to seek pregnancy terminations or in vitro fertilizations are returned to the U.S. for prosecution. Following the current fashion for braided narratives, this story is told from five perspectives. Ro, whose chapters are labeled "The Biographer," is a single high school teacher who's trying desperately to get pregnant before single parenthood is outlawed. Mattie, "The Daughter," is an academically gifted teenager whose best friend is already in juvenile jail for attempting a home abortion. Now she too is pregnant, and desperate. Susan, "The Wife," is married to another teacher at the high school, miserable with him and with domestic life in general. She and the Biographer are competitive frenemies who misunderstand and resent each other even as they regularly socialize. Gin, "The Mender," is a natural healer who lives in the woods, an underground provider of herbal abortions, in more danger from the new laws than she realizes. Finally, Eivør Minervudottir is a (fictional) 19th-century explorer of the North Pole, the subject of the Biographer's work. Her sections are brief avant-garde flashes that include recipes for cooking puffin and pilot whale and crossed-out lines revealing the Biographer's process. The other four characters are entangled in complicated, trickily unfolding ways, as is usual in this type of fractured narrative. Zumas (The Listener, 2012, etc.) is a lyrical polymath of a writer: she loves wordplay and foreign terms, she has an ear for dialogue, and she knows an impressive amount about herbal healing, Arctic exploration, and the part of the U.S. her story is set in, its "dark hills dense with hemlock, fir, and spruce," its "fog-smoked evergreen mountains, thousand-foot cliffs plunging straight down to the sea."A good story energized by a timely premise but perhaps a bit heavy on the literary effects.