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When She Woke: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Hillary Jordan
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (418 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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 chromed—their skin color is genetically altered to match the class of their crimes—and 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.



Editorial Reviews

Review

'Hillary Jordan channels Nathaniel Hawthorne by way of Margaret Atwood in this fast-paced, dystopian thriller. Unputdownable' Valerie Martin, author of The Confessions of Edward Day 'Not only one of the best books of the year, but it's everything the dystopian genre was made for ... An instant classic for the 21st century' Publisher's Weekly 'A stunning futuristic thriller ... the setup in the first part of the book is excellent, very Handmaid's Tale, the second half is a straight chase and escape tale. The whole thing is stunning.' The Bookseller PRAISE FOR HILLARY JORDAN: 'Hillary Jordan writes with the force of a Delta storm' Barbara Kingsolver 'Jordan's tautly structured debut ... confronts disturbing truths about America's past with a directness and a freshness of approach that recalls Alice Walker's The Color Purple.' The Times 'The winner of Barbara Kingsolver's Bellwether Prize for a novel 'promoting social responsibility,' Hillary Jordan is happily a writer who puts her duty to entertain first' The Independent

Review

'Hillary Jordan channels Nathaniel Hawthorne by way of Margaret Atwood in this fast-paced, dystopian thriller. Unputdownable' Valerie Martin, author of The Confessions of Edward Day 'Not only one of the best books of the year, but it's everything the dystopian genre was made for ... An instant classic for the 21st century' Publisher's Weekly 'A stunning futuristic thriller ! the setup in the first part of the book is excellent, very Handmaid's Tale, the second half is a straight chase and escape tale. The whole thing is stunning.' The Bookseller PRAISE FOR HILLARY JORDAN: 'Hillary Jordan writes with the force of a Delta storm' Barbara Kingsolver 'Jordan's tautly structured debut ... confronts disturbing truths about America's past with a directness and a freshness of approach that recalls Alice Walker's The Color Purple.' The Times 'The winner of Barbara Kingsolver's Bellwether Prize for a novel 'promoting social responsibility,' Hillary Jordan is happily a writer who puts her duty to entertain first' The Independent

Product Details

  • File Size: 513 KB
  • Print Length: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; Reprint edition (September 18, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0096BS448
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #25,676 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
108 of 124 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Simply Red. August 28, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Hannah Payne is red.

A conviction of murder in this alternate future earns the convict a red skin tint for the length of their sentence, allowing them to live a public life filled with prejudice and hardship. This sentence unburdens the government of cost and responsibility. There is no separation of church and state. Society has become puritanical.

This book is derivative; not just of "The Scarlet Letter" but of many other dystopian novels. The Handmaid's Tale, Children of Men, We, all come to mind. Though I generally love these kinds of novels, the total lack of originality in this book did drop it a star for me.

Without giving away too much, a major theme in this book is abortion and with a pro-choice slant. I don't think conservative readers will enjoy it much.

The writing was good, the characters interesting, the evolution of Hannah was well-paced. It moved quickly and was generally satisfying. I'm not raving about it, but I enjoyed it, and it has definitely piqued my interest in Mudbound.
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112 of 133 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Scarlet Atwood September 14, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Summary: Hannah Payne wakes up a vivid shade of red. In the not-so-distant future, this 'chroming' is the punishment for all sorts of crimes, with different colors marking the severity of the transgression. Red is for murder. And in Jordan's dystopian future, most of America is disturbingly Puritanical and abortion is a criminal offense - it's murder, and it is for this crime that Hannah is chromed. By refusing to name the father she has added to her sentence. We soon learn (so this IS NOT a spoiler) that Reverend Dale, her family's pastor, was her lover and the father of her aborted child. The book follows Hannah as she is released from prison and has to cope with living in a world that abuses and discriminates against 'Chromes'. Her journey will cause her to examine her life, her faith, and her love.

Review: As you may have surmised from the summary, this novel is a retelling of Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter. Hannah Payne/Hester Prynne, Reverend Dale/Dimmesdale, etc. The mean-spirited husband of that tale has been swapped for a bigoted brother-in-law, but much of the debate about sin, suffering, and personal faith remain. The setting and general atmosphere, however, are lifted right from Margaret Atwood's heavy-handed dystopian fantasy The Handmaid's Tale. The legal atmosphere of the novel is incredibly misogynistic, the religious right holds the country in a tyrannical grip, and everything from wearing short skirts to questioning male opinions is a sin. Basically, it's your liberal atheist's worst nightmare. Most of the religious figures are incredibly hypocritical and cruel, and the 'good' characters are persecuted by them.

I waver back and forth on my opinion of the messages in this novel.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Colorful Clunker August 4, 2013
Format:Paperback
Readers familiar with Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter will have no trouble identifying the parallels in Hillary Jordan's novel about illicit love. In this futuristic version of Hawthorne's morality tale, Hannah Payne becomes the lover of a married man of the cloth. She becomes pregnant, and rather than bearing a child who would incriminate her lover, the widely respected head of the global Church of the Ignited Word and America's Secretary of Faith, Hannah has an abortion.

Abortion is illegal in this dystopia, and those who are convicted of the crime are punished by being injected with viral DNA which turns their skin "the solid, declarative red of a stop sign." Other crimes warrant other colors, but the stigmatized "chromes" become societal outcasts, bearing the signature color of their transgressions for everyone to see.

Blood-red but not bowed, Hannah sets off on a series of adventures that take her from a halfway house whose proprietors try to inculcate in her the puritanical social and religious doctrines espoused by the government (no separation of church and state in this dystopia, nosirree) to an underground railroad implemented by some covert but rebellious and prickly feminists. Along the way, Hannah endures various forms of social ostracism and cruelty, including kidnapping and attempted rape, has a lesbian affair, gains then loses (but will she regain???) a friend who is also chromed, and reunites with Reverend Dale at least long enough to tell him a thing or two about love and truth.

In short, this morality tale is long on political and religious diatribe but short on character development, dialogue, description, and believable plot.
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38 of 43 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too much world building, too little plot March 22, 2012
Format:Hardcover
I recently read The Handmaid's Tale for the first time and, when I finished it, I wondered why it had taken me such a long time to read it. Given today's political climate, the issues dealt with in that book are still so relevant to today's political discourse, so when I saw the synopsis of this book, I thought I'd hit another home run. It seemed to be a cross between The Scarlet Letter (a book that I love) and The Handmaid's Tale, so what could go wrong? Well, in a word, plenty. Spoilers to follow.

First off, this isn't what I would identify as a bad book. The writing is pretty well done, for the most part. The concepts are excellent, particularly the whole idea of Chroming. I found this to be not only an interesting premise, but one that was rather scary because it seems like a possibility. I was very impressed by the depth of the world the author built, at the complicated factions at play here. Jordan has obviously tackled a very ambitious project but the problem is that, while her elements when taken singularly are very intriguing, there are just too many of them all put together. At times, I felt like this book was one of those European tours, where you get off a bus, take a look at a monument, and then get back on the bus so that it can take you to the next monument. It felt like Hannah as moving through the world not so much because the plot required it but because Jordan wanted to highlight certain features of the society she created.

First of all, we have Chroming. This was such a great idea, in theory. I was really curious to find out what life would be like for those who had been Chromed. In fact, I could imagine an entire novel dealing solely with this aspect of the book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
The book was soo good. I read it in one sitting!! Love it!
Published 10 days ago by Celeste Garcia
4.0 out of 5 stars interesting and well written
Loved the use of language and social perspectives. Forces one to think about societies and their futures. Fresh, non formulaic plot.
Published 11 days ago by A. Hodari
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Terrific read.
Published 13 days ago by SHEREE B. MCLAUGHLIN
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read!
Excellent compelling read.
Published 27 days ago by TechGrl
5.0 out of 5 stars fingers crossed for a second one!
couldn't put it down!!
Published 1 month ago by Kristina H.
3.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good book
This book was very different I couldn't stop reading it but it wasn't the best reading. it really was not my type of book someone else may really enjoy it
Published 1 month ago by pam
5.0 out of 5 stars A Dystopian Scarlet Letter
In the past few months I have read many dystopian novels. Our society is quickly headed down a road that is going to lead to disaster unless we stand up and force changes. Read more
Published 1 month ago by TroyV
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Excellent!
Published 2 months ago by Happyabout
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Shades of "A Handmaidens Tale".
Published 2 months ago by D. Faust
5.0 out of 5 stars I really liked the concept of this story
I really liked the concept of this story. I've read it twice and do get the "Scarlet Letter" similarity with a modern adaptation. It's a great read. Read more
Published 2 months ago by awshucks
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More About the Author

Hillary Jordan grew up in Texas and Oklahoma. She received her BA in English and Political Science from Wellesley College and spent fifteen years working as an advertising copywriter before starting to write fiction. She got her MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University.

Her first novel, MUDBOUND, was published by Algonquin Books in March 2008 and became an international bestseller. It won the 2006 Bellwether Prize for Fiction, founded by Barbara Kingsolver and awarded biennially to an unpublished debut novel that addresses issues of social justice, as well as a 2009 Alex Award from the American Library Association. It was the 2008 NAIBA (New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Assoc.) Fiction Book of the Year and was longlisted for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Prize. PASTE Magazine named it one of the Top Ten Debut Novels of the Decade. MUDBOUND has been translated into French, Italian, Serbian, Swedish and Norwegian.

Hillary's second novel, WHEN SHE WOKE, was published by Algonquin Books in October 2011. It was a #1 Indie Next pick, one of BookPages Best Books of 2011 and a BookList Editor's Choice for Best Fiction of 2011. It has been translated into French, Spanish and Turkish. German, Chinese and Brazilian editions are forthcoming.


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