When She Woke by Hillary Jordan, Algonquin Books, October 2011
I believe that people will either love or hate this book
This one had my attention from the first page. It is a dystopian look at a U.S. theocracy in the not too distant future. The lead character Hannah Payne, a young woman devoted to her family and her Christian faith has been convicted of murder. The victim is her unborn child that she has aborted. Hannah had an illicit love affair with an influential minister and bore his child. In these new United States prison is reserved for the only a few hard core inmates, most criminals are punished by chroming. The inmates’ skin is treated so that it is a bright color, red for murders, yellow and green for lesser offenses. The criminals are then released into the general population to fend for themselves. As this story open Hannah wakes to find her skin bright red.
Hannah has chosen not to identify the father of the child so she is left to face her life as a ”red” essentially alone. In this fast paced novel Hannah deals with all of the difficulties of being shunned and ostracized. After a short stint in a dismal, cruel, half way house Hannah and her newly acquired friend Kayla attempt to escape their fate. The story is well conceived and well told. The details about a country where the separation of church and state is no more are credible. As interesting is the journey Hannah takes spiritually trying to reform her beliefs and reconcile herself to the loss of her family, her lover and the life she has known and then embrace a new more independent path.
I believe that people will either love or hate this book. The author does pursue a pro choice agenda that will surely turn off some readers. I found the story fairly balanced though. While there were plenty of right wing Christian zealots, there were also some true Christians – Hannah’s father, and a sensitive Episcopalian minister among them. I am sure many readers will note the similarities to The Scarlet Letter, The Handmaid’s Tale and Children of Men but I thought the author did a credible job of creating a richly detailed setting for her story. The pacing is excellent and the tension she creates as Hannah attempts to flee is quite good. Maybe not the best book I’ve read recently but I enjoyed it and read it almost straight through without a break.
I read a copy of this book I received through the Amazon Vine program.