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July 2018: Dystopian > Red Clocks by Leni Zumas -- 4 stars

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Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7784 comments Red Clocks by Leni Zumas
4 stars

I wanted to read this book, and I didn’t want to read this book. A dystopian book about a ban on abortion and restricted women’s rights seems important and timely. Perhaps too timely. Especially with the resignation of Justice Kennedy, which opens the door for a full-fledged attack on Roe v. Wade. But, when nearly a dozen PBT members signed up to do a Buddy Read, I knew that I couldn’t resist.

In the not-so-distant future (about 2030), the U.S. has passed two amendments to the Constitution: one making abortion and IVF illegal by charging the person seeking the abortion and the person performing it with manslaughter or attempted manslaughter or conspiracy, and the other—which goes into effect very soon—saying that only two-parent households can adopt children. We see how this impacts women through four main characters:
—The Biographer, a 42 year old single woman who desperately wants a child and is undergoing artificial insemination, and is writing the biography of a female Polar Explorer from the Faroe Islands in the late 1800s.
—The Wife, a married mother of two who gave up her law school/career for motherhood/homemaking is unhappy in her marriage.
—The Daughter, a 15 year old student who finds herself pregnant with few options.
—The Mender, a middle aged woman who lives in the woods and is sought out by women in search of help.

These women all live in the same Oregon town, and their lives intersect here and there. They each have a different relationship with the new laws, and each is impacted in different ways. There are a handful of supporting characters, primarily males, who give further insight to the social attitudes of the time.

I liked the story. I thought it was an eerie amalgamation of a dystopian future and a historically accurate past. And, there were indications of other issues as well: men’s attitudes towards women seemed to have regressed back to where they were in the 1960s while environmental concerns seemed to have escalated. Both changes were very subtle.

I truly enjoyed the characters. The author did a good job of framing each of their struggles and making me care about them, which was fairly impressive given their range of needs/wants related to reproductive rights. There were also small excerpts from the life of the Polar Explorer that I personally was interested in because I am currently involved in a research project that looks at the impact of pilot whale consumption on children’s health in the Faroe Islands, but I did not think it tied in very well with the rest of the book besides just juxtaposing the current state of women’s rights with those of the past.

Ultimately, I just didn’t think the book packed much of a punch. I connected with the characters and, of course, the overall storyline, but it just didn’t have a huge impact on me. When I compare it with other books that I put in this genre, this one falls to the bottom of the pile. The Handmaid’s Tale was traumatizing, but we were left with the sense that the women there were fighting back and were on the brink of a revolution. Not so with Red Clocks, which left me with the sense that everyone was just going along with their fate. The Power flipped everything we currently see about gender power structure on its head, and made me think about society more than any other fiction book I have read in a long time. Not so with Red Clocks, which left me with the sense that this was just a 50 year backslide and history was doomed to repeat itself.

I liked the book enough to give it four stars, but I just wanted more.


Nicole D. | 1497 comments wow, depressing man.

You know what never resonated with me? I didn't "FEEL" the biographer wanting the baby. I heard it, the words were all there, but on an emotional level it never connected. Perhaps because the attempts at conception were so clinical? I don't know ... And I know what it's like as a single woman to want a baby, but still didn't connect.

And agree, not much of a punch, but that too may be because of the timing.


Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7784 comments Nicole D. wrote: "wow, depressing man.

You know what never resonated with me? I didn't "FEEL" the biographer wanting the baby. I heard it, the words were all there, but on an emotional level it never connected. Pe..."


I agree with you about the Biographer and not really connecting with her wanting a baby. She was probably the one I connected with the least. I felt like she talked about women making their own choices, etc. but then she desperately wanted a more traditional life.

And, I get it. Sometimes you don't know you want something until you CAN'T have it, and that is how I felt about her. I didn't feel like she really wanted a baby, but that she really wanted to have this experience that she felt as a woman she should have.

I don't know that I am really stating that clearly, but that may be because I am not super clear on what I thought of her character!

I did think at the end that she was the one character who might actually get involved and try and make change.


Nicole D. | 1497 comments Yes! that makes total sense.


Susie | 4488 comments Total sense Nicole. I think you hit the nail on the head, that she wanted what she thought she was supposed to want.


message 6: by Jen (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jen | 1545 comments Nicole R wrote: "Nicole D. wrote: "wow, depressing man.

You know what never resonated with me? I didn't "FEEL" the biographer wanting the baby. I heard it, the words were all there, but on an emotional level it n..."


I mostly agree. Except she didn’t really want a more traditional life since she wanted to be a single mother and had no interest in having a “traditional” family.


Anita Pomerantz | 6734 comments Interesting observation about the biographer . . .I do think the authorial choices (not to use names) made the book feel more arms length in certain ways. And now that you point it out, I can't disagree about the yearning for a baby, but there's another part of me that feels like the desire to procreate isn't always intellectualized or even emotional, but more of a biological imperative that doesn't always make super logical sense. It felt to me like she wanted to be impregnated because all the doors were rapidly closing. As her options narrowed, the urgency increased, but I'm not sure it was really about having a child. I felt it was more about not losing the opportunity to do so.


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