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Red Clocks: A Novel Hardcover – January 16, 2018
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"[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 masterful--this 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
About the Author
Leni Zumas is the author of the story collection Farewell Navigator and the novel The Listeners, which was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award. She is an associate professor in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Portland State University.
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"...the United States passed the Personhood Amendment, which gives the constitutional right to life, liberty, and property to a fertilized egg at the moment of conception. Abortion is now illegal in all fifty states. Abortion providers can be charged with second-degree murder. In vitro fertilization, too, is federally banned, because the amendment outlaws the transfer of embryos from laboratory to uterus. (The embryos can't give their consent to be moved)"
This book fascinated and scared the hell out of me. Four main voices resound throughout the book, each fully dimensional and with her own frustrations at the world around them, but no voice spoke as strongly to me as the biographer. A woman in the last of her childbearing years, the biographer is unmarried, uncoupled even, by choice. She is trying desperately to get pregnant using artificial insemination before another law goes into effect, one that bans adopting/raising a child in a single parent household. She is the most interesting character to me because she was just so...real. My thoughts and anxiety were with her in her hardest moments. I cheered for her, hoped with her and felt the cold, numb feeling of disappointment with her.
This book left only one two-part question in my mind (which I will have to go back to the book and see if I missed the answer) which was, what about already existing single parents? And what happens to babies of single mothers after they give birth after the law goes into effect? I felt like more emphasis on these could have more strongly supported the biographer's and Mattie's choices.
This book is phenomenal. It's beautifully written, cuts deep, and makes you think. It was everything I hoped it would be.
It's all of those things. And I'd also say it's horrific, the passage most so being this one:
"Two years ago [Congress] ratified the [Amendment] which gives the constitutional right to life, liberty, and property to a fertilized egg at the moment of conception. Abortion is now illegal in all fifty states. Abortion providers can be charged with second-degree murder, abortion seekers with conspiracy to commit murder. In vitro fertilization, too, is federally banned, because the amendment outlaws the transfer of embryos from laboratory to uterus. (The embryos can't give their consent to be moved)... She was just quietly teaching history when it happened. Woke up one morning to a president-elect she hadn't voted for. This man thought women who miscarried should pay for funerals for the fetal tissue..."
So if I understood the plight of the women in this book, then why didn't it work for me?
Because as I have confessed in other reviews, I apparently have delicate sensibilities, and this book was too far outside my comfort zone. The entire thing is filled with bluntness, and descriptions that I just couldn't bring myself to love. Respect, yes! Accept as a potential reality, yes! But love? Definitely not. There were too many passages such as this one:
"I couldn't stop looking. To smell the bonfires lit on the cliffs calling men to the hunt. To see the boats herd the pod into the alcove, the whales thrashing faster as they panic. Men and boys wade into the water with knives to cut their spinal cords... And the water foams up red..."
And this one:
"Her owl teeth shall catch flame first, sparks of blue at the white before the red tongue catches too. A witch's body when burning does smell of blistered milk; the odor makes onlookers vomit, yet still they look on."
I understood this book. I understood the allegory. I was angry over the struggle, and galling injustice. I heard the call to action. I loved it. But I also hated it. It isn't going to be a book that everyone enjoys. It's beautifully written, but the meaning is often hidden, and requires layers of thought. This, of course, is what I ALWAYS hope for in a book, but when the layers of thought require me to contemplate intimately, matters such as the smell of burning bodies, or actions I consider to be animal cruelty, it's hard. It's depressing.
And sometimes, I don't read to be depressed. I read to feel inspired. This was a book that hit home for me. It packed a punch. However, it won't be a book for everyone. Do I think you should read it? Yes!!! But at a time when this type of book falls in line with what you want or need from a book in that moment!
I received an ARC copy of this book from the publisher. My opinions are my own.