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When She Woke Hardcover – Bargain Price, October 4, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


“[A] chilling futuristic novel.”—O, The Oprah Magazine (O, the Oprah magazine )

“Jordan manages to open up powerful feminist and political themes without becoming overly preachy—and the parallels with Hawthorne are fun to trace.”—Kirkus (Kirkus Reviews )

“Christian fundamentalists may shun this novel, but book clubs will devour it, and savvy educators will pair it with Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter. Essential.”—Library Journal
(Library Journal )

“Jordan blends hot-button issues such as separation of church and state, abortion, and criminal justice with an utterly engrossing story, driven by a heroine as layered and magnetic as Hester Prynne herself, and reminiscent, too, of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (1985). Absolutely a must-read.”—Booklist, starred review (Booklist )

“[A] provocative, politically charged novel... [Hannah’s] journey to reclaim herself is equally chilling and riveting.”—Family Circle (Family Circle )

“It reads like a thriller, and one that makes you think hard, to boot. I’ve already placed this one on my favorite-books-for-book-clubs list.”—The Book Case (The Book Case )

“An utterly engrossing story, driven by a heroine as layered and magnetic as Hester Prynne herself, and reminiscent, too, of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Absolutely a must-read.”
Booklist, starred review

The Scarlet Letter could unfurl from no better a speculative pen than that held by Hillary Jordan. She takes the seeds of that story and roots them in a world where ‘right to life’ is the law of the land . . . The result . . . is as compulsively readable as it is thought-provoking.”
 —The Denver Post

“In the chillingly credible tomorrowland of Jordan’s second novel, Roe v. Wade has been overturned, abortion has been criminalized in 42 states and a vigilante group known as the Fist of Christ brutalizes violators . . . Jordan’s feverishly conceived dystopia holds its own alongside the dark inventions of Margaret Atwood and Ray Bradbury.”
The New York Times Book Review

“Hannah’s fight for freedom is both a sober warning and a gripping page-turner. Already it reads like a classic.” —AARP

“Jordan’s take on the hot button issues of our time—separation of church and state, abortion, an imperfect criminal justice system—is compelling.”
San Antonio Express-News

“An inventive tale about a new America that has lost its way . . . When She Woke is, at its heart, a tense, energetic and lively paced story about self-discovery and reclamation in the wake of enormous shame. It is a story about the price of love.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune

“[A] provocative, politically charged novel . . . [Hannah’s] journey to reclaim herself is equally chilling and riveting.” —Family Circle

“Will spark many an intriguing book club discussion.” —The Cleveland Plain Dealer


“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

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; 1 edition (October 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565126297
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (431 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,000,705 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

Customer Reviews

Easy read, great story. well written..
Marjorie L. Matin
This book drew me in from page 1 and I have had a hard time putting it down since.
I felt like the main character was very shallow, too.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

109 of 125 people found the following review helpful By Nicole Del Sesto on 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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113 of 134 people found the following review helpful By dizzyweasel VINE VOICE on 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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39 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Bookphile TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 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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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Lennox Ryland on 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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