The Heart Goes Last

I’ve recently been on a Margaret Atwood reading kick, and I doubt it’s going to stop anytime soon. I find her writing very easy to read and follow while also being captivated. I feel like I can see her writing it while I’m reading it, and it seems like she’s having a lot of fun while also trying to get some real ideas out there. Her books read like you’re eating a box of chocolate chip cookies, but she also gives you some healthy theoretical vegetables to digest for your main course without you really noticing.

Women’s rights, capitalism, humans as commodities, criminal industrial complex, sex slavery and a messed up love story. This book has it all. The story begins in a dystopian future time where most of the population is unemployed, and options are slim. The book follows the story of a couple, Charmaine and Stan, who make the decision to try out a experimental community: Consilience. The catch about living in this ideal community that is barred from the chaotic outside world is that you can never leave, and you also have to spend every other month in prison.

“Citizens were always a bit like inmates and inmates were always a bit like citizens so Consilience and Positron made it official,” Charmaine muses in the book.

Life at the prison actually turns out to be quite enjoyable after the first few months. All of the “real criminals” are soon weeded out, and taken somewhere else. All of the inmates have jobs at the prison, and Charmaine’s job is in “Medications Administration.” Her job has little to do with making people feel better, and everything to do with sending them “somewhere else”.

“… it was the sadists and psychopaths who needed to be- not euthanized, not erased, those words are too blunt. Relocated to a different sphere, because they were not suited to the life of Consilience,” Charmaine tells herself as she goes through with her prison job of “medical procedures.”

There is a current of mystery and intrigue in the book, and you’re never sure where it is going, but you’re also not completely lost. You have a feeling you know where things are headed, but you can’t put your finger on it. It seems too familiar to real life to be a surprise ending.

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midwestern librarian, writer, activist

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