Cyndy Aleo's Reviews > Woman on the Edge of Time

Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
5475913
's review
May 20, 11

bookshelves: women-s-fiction

I was first introduced to the novels and poetry of Marge Piercy when I was in college and very focused on the writings of women, especially feminist writings. In going through a bunch of books I had been keeping at my parents' house, I discovered boxes of books I probably haven't read in over ten years, one of which was Woman on the Edge of Time.

::: Edge of Time, Edge of Reason :::

Connie Ramos, the protagonist, is a middle-aged Hispanic woman living in poverty in New York City. Already committed to a mental hospital once after abusing her daughter during a depressive episode, she has lost everything: her daughter, the man she loved, and a life that was on the border of normal, even if it was based on her significant other's pickpocketing. Her niece Dolly arrives, having been beaten up by her pimp, and interrupts Connie in the middle of a conversation with Luciente, a person who claims to be from the future. Luciente disappears as Dolly enters Connie's apartment, and when Dolly's boyfriend/pimp comes after Dolly with a "doctor" to perform an abortion on her, Connie attacks him to help Dolly, and winds up back in Bellevue for her troubles.

Dolly backs up her pimp's story that Connie attacked both of them, and Connie is transferred to another mental hospital, Rockover, where she continues her conversations with Luciente, eventually going over mentally to the future to experience their world, meeting Luciente's friends and family, and experiencing their utopian society, where men and women are equal and share in all tasks, from farming to defense. Everyone shares resources, people own very few possessions, and their world is a welcome respite from the reality of the mental hospital where Connie is literally a prisoner, soon to be subjected to a medical test where a device is implanted in her brain to control her.

As Connie spends more and more time with Luciente, she longs for a world that won't keep her down, even as she balks at some of the things that women gave up to have totally equal status: live birthing and sharing breastfeeding duties with men, who "comother." She also learns that Luciente's people are fighting a war to maintain their utopian society, and that Connie herself must fight to help them attain their reality, for there are many possibilities, and their utopia is only one of them.

::: A Book Before Its Time :::

Woman on the Edge of Time was first published in 1976, in the center of the Women's Rights Movement. In 1976, the Supreme Court upheld a decision in General Elec. Co v. Gilbert that a woman had the right to unemployment benefits during her last trimester of pregnancy, and the year before, in Taylor v. Louisiana, states were denied the right to prevent women from serving on juries because of their gender. The concept of a utopian society where all people were exactly equal must have seemed even more incredible.

The novel is one that people seem to either love or hate. I've read reviews where some think it is too feminist, while others criticize Connie as a stereotype: overweight, poor, and Hispanic, while her brother Luis (who goes by Lewis) has become a success only by blending in with white society, and who has a succession of "Anglo" wives as he moves up society's ladder. Her commitment to the hospital is as much an effort for Luis to be rid of his poor past as it is to help Connie.

The scenes in Matapoissett are especially vivid, with detailed descriptions of societies who choose culture based on the village they live in and not what they are born into, where there are no class distinctions, and where every person's talents and abilities are valued.

Piercy also includes a glimpse of another possible future that Connie visits accidentally. This scene has been mentioned as a precursor to cyberpunk, showing a futuristic society much like that of William Gibson's novels. Connie sees a society in which women are nothing more than objects, and the class division is much greater than it is in her present, and decides to align herself with Luciente's society; to prevent the other from occurring no matter what the cost.

::: Still Timely? :::

While some of the plot points are dated, including how much money would be needed in present society to accomplish much of anything, the overall message of the novel still has a great deal to offer in terms of the overall worth of the individual over class and gender, as well as the treatment of the poor and mentally ill. The sections with the utopian society along make a wonderful tale, even if the reader is never sure whether they are a product of Connie's mental illness or a true reality. Almost thirty years later, this novel is still a riveting read.

This review previously published at Epinions: http://www.epinions.com/review/_20057...
1 like · likeflag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Woman on the Edge of Time.
sign in »

No comments have been added yet.