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The overarching story is a cautionary tale about the things that happen when we're not looking. Through the lens of this fictional world, we're meant to see a glimpse of the real world. There are protests and celebrations as the new laws are enacted, but most people have retreated into their own lives. When most are complacent, the few have the power to make the decisions for the many. As a history teacher, Ro knows "how many horrors are legitimated in public daylight, against the will of most of the people." There are often instances in history where the majority opinion in the United States is out of line with the ruling party's platform. Infighting between those in those in the majority further decreases their voting power. In Dead Center, former congressman Jason Altmire writes about how all but the extremes have disengaged from politics. What does this mean for the country's future? Whatever happens, we all have to deal with the consequences— sometimes in ways we didn't anticipate. Damn, I really wanted to love this book. The premise is obviously timely and appropriate, and the book had a lot of hype. But I just didn't care for it. Well, good. It’s a hard world.”“We are the dinosaurs, marching, marching.“We are the dinosaurs. We make the earth flat!”
All sorts of things are all over the place. I'm supposed to decipher it? Really? Overall this didn't feel like a readable material. At all. DNF. I don't want to torture myself with it anymore. It's probably very forward and front-looking and experimental and feminist and corresponds to a bunch of other buzz-words, still it's incomprehensible. It's like a bunch of books got intermixed along with some other material, probably (including oversized to-do lists, random thoughts and all sorts of notes by different people). I'm sorry to say that. I really wanted this book to amount to something more than this. It's a book about what makes a family and it is saying you need two adults to have a child. It also talks about the rights of the ity bity baby in its first few weeks of being conceived and the new law that protects that baby. I am a Christian and am for life so I agreed with the law in this story. But when you take something away that is in the 'light' and is safe for the woman, it then becomes done in the dark and with that comes danger. You can't stop people from having sex but maybe there should be more emphasize on protection during the act. But none of us are perfect and we need to love and forgive ourselves and others. I circled around this book for a long time, not wanting to read another dystopian breeder novel. But I eventually decided to try it, and I'm glad I did. Told through multiple perspectives (all female), this is a near future dystopia with very probably legislation that outlaws abortion, IVF, and adoption outside of straight married couples for the entire country. The female characters are known first as these new archetypes - the Mender, the Wife, the Biographer, the Daughter, etc. As the story unfolds we learn their names and stories from their chapters but also the chapters of others, and you start to see how their lives and stories interrelate.All this makes this book sound like a polemic on reproductive rights but the experience of reading it is much more nuanced character study. It presents the interlinked stories of five very different woman in a world where reproductive choice is restricted. The politics of this is deftly referenced almost as an aside. It is never suggested that one particular path is easier or of less consequence than another but the book does an exceptional job of highlighting the importance of individual choice. I liked the characters. The majority of these women were interesting, and it held my curiosity. However, I do think the setting of the story could have been better. For instance, it could have been set in the present day. There are so many people that are physically unable to have children naturally and who are also turned away from adopting any children. And, there is still a terrible stigma present, if a woman of a certain religion, or social group, wishes to get an abortion.
The unnamed character thing seemed unnecessary. It reminded me of Annihilation - four women characters, all unnamed (I can hear the conversation now: "Hey! Instead of a BIOLOGIST, let's have your main character be a BIOGRAPHER!") and I really hope having a bunch of unnamed women characters is not going to become a trend in near-future dystopian lit. And actually, the characters did have names, but only sometimes were they referred to by them - which caused me confusion when suddenly someone was "Susan" and I was like "Susan? Who?" There must be some symbolism here that I'm missing as to why they were referred to by name at some parts but not others, but I can't figure it out.
We see this story unfold through the eyes of four women, The Biographer – Ro, who is writing a book about Eivør Mínervudottír, The Daughter – Mattie, a student, adopted, with dreams of attending an esteemed math school finds herself pregnant around the time her boyfriend has moved on to another girl, The Wife – Susan, whose thoughts are about her dissatisfaction with her life, her marriage, the distance she feels between what she has and what she wants, and The Mender – Gin, a woman who the townspeople think of as a bit of a hermit who might be a witch, a woman who lives alone in the forest and provides “cures” for ailments and assorted other troubles, for those who come seeking. The structure of the novel is basically perfect. The four women in the book all have lives centered around the central system of the female sex: its ability to bear children. It is the thing that has made patriarchal culture what it is, but it is also something that women have reclaimed and found joy and identity in as feminism has evolved. The way these women relate to pregnancy, birth, abortion, and childrearing stands in stark contrast to one another, but they all felt real and personally relevant. That Zumas allows them to be so different, to envy and dislike each other for their differences, and leaves it all without comment, without choosing any one character to be a moral highground or an arbiter of what is good, is another thing I liked about it so much. The book stays zoomed in on these women's lives, letting us see how they intertwine and react. It doesn't try to make a bigger statement, which is why it makes such an effective statement. Ro/The Biographer is in her early 40s – an unmarried high school teacher she is unsuccessfully trying artificial insemination, knowing her adoption and fostering chances are disappearing.