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The Book of Etta (The Road to Nowhere) Paperback – February 21, 2017
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From Publishers Weekly
In this gritty sequel to her Philip K. Dick Award–winning The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, Elison returns to her postapocalyptic American Midwest milieu, but far in the future, when the midwife protagonist of the first novel is largely a legend. The plague that destroyed human civilization lingers, killing women in childbirth, fetuses in the womb, and newborns. Far more boys survive than girls. The various pocket communities that have survived have found their own ways of coping with the gender imbalance. In matriarchal Nowhere, women collect men into “hives.” In nearby Jeff City, castrati live as women, giving the illusion of gender balance. In Estiel, formerly St. Louis, a monstrous dictator known as the Lion raids other communities for their women and girls. Etta—or Eddy, as he calls himself outside the confines of Nowhere—is a young transgender man who can’t find a place for himself in a world where people with wombs are classified as either baby-making machines or midwives. He’s a wanderer and explorer by nature and has no interest in any other role. Elison continues to startle her readers with unexpected gender permutations and fascinating relationships worked out in front of a convincingly detailed landscape.
Elison’s second book picks up where The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (2014) left off. Pockets of the postapocalyptic world are beginning to restore order in their own isolated ways, creating new social norms, religious idols, and moral codes. Etta’s home city, Nowhere, reveres women and is organized by Hives of one woman to numerous men. Women fill key religious, leadership, and sexual roles in this city, but Etta would rather fill the masculine role of raider. Using her raiding as an excuse to present as male and travel, Etta and the new world must grapple with understanding nonbinary gender identity and transsexuality on the road. But the road is a treacherous place, as the patriarchal slave city Estiel and its leader, the Lion, threaten the safety of surrounding communities, burning and looting all who will not surrender their women and girls. Elison takes a nuanced look at the physical and psychological effects of sexual assault and forces its characters and readers alike to consider how it feels to be born with a culturally taboo identity.
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Through the course of the tale, we learn things about the world--dark things--and about how people have evolved to deal with the darkness. Etta (as Eddy) has become a murderer in order to steal female slaves and bring them back to Nowhere. Others have taken even more extreme steps, such as harvesting female steroids from horses, running vast empires of fear, building societies where women never speak, etc. I don't want to give too much away, as there are some real twists in this second book, but the Mormons return, sort of.
There are some neat ideas and neat expansions on the themes established in the first book. This is one of the only books I can think of, in which the author deals with small facts like rubber tires, ammunition (even if she missed the target in part of it), etc.
Again, I'd say read this one. It's likely you will enjoy it.
Most recent customer reviews
Best series I have read in a long Time. I can't wait foe the next book in the series