The Heart Goes Last, by Margaret Atwood
Book Length: 322 pages
Publisher: Nan A. Talese (September 29, 2015)
Reading Sara Rating: 7/10 – Entertaining and a good read!
Book Blurb: Stan and Charmaine are a married couple trying to stay afloat in the midst of an economic and social collapse. Job loss has forced them to live in their car, leaving them vulnerable to roving gangs. They desperately need to turn their situation around—and fast. The Positron Project in the town of Consilience seems to be the answer to their prayers. No one is unemployed, and everyone gets a comfortable, clean house to live in . . . for six months out of the year. On alternating months, residents of Consilience must leave their homes and function as inmates in the Positron prison system. Once their month of service in the prison is completed, they can return to their “civilian” homes.
At first, this doesn’t seem like too much of a sacrifice to make in order to have a roof over one’s head and food to eat. But when Charmaine becomes romantically involved with the man who lives in their house during the months when she and Stan are in the prison, a series of troubling events unfolds, putting Stan’s life in danger. With each passing day, Positron looks less like a prayer answered and more like a chilling prophecy fulfilled.
Reading Sara Review: Margaret Atwood is one of my favorite authors. If you are a woman and have not read The Handmaid’s Tale, you must. It is haunting, real, and will stick with you forever. I had not read any of Atwood’s recent books, so was eager to pick up this one that was released in 2015. As the description mentions, The Heart Goes Last is a post-financial and social crisis book that follows our main characters, Stan and Charmaine through their struggles.
The concept of the Positron Project is fascinating – and certainly too good to be true. The way that Atwood creates these alternate universes that could actually happen are incredible and one of the reasons that I believe she is one of the today’s best visionary authors.
Neither main character is very sympathetic, though with that being said, I think that there are pieces of the way that they each handled the situation they are in that is relatable to all of us: pride, sacrifice, fear, anger, and ultimately forgiveness. Personally, I did not like either of the primary characters but was intrigued by a few of the secondary characters and how they made decisions, kept secrets, and tried to maintain a normalcy and ethical compass in a world where much of their decisions are taken away from them.
There are some crucial gender statements made in this novel, and the reader needs to trust Atwood to turn around the sexism and deal with them (which she does). Morality is the biggest issue – as technology advances, what right do people have to decide someone else’s fate and who they love? I cannot get into too much more without spoilers, but I will warn future readers that there are large topics in this book – it is not for the faint of heart.
I would not recommend this book to everyone. It is similar to Atwood’s other books in exploring the harm that power can cause. But, if you are an Atwood fan, definitely add this to your list. The end drags a bit, and leaves the reader with a bit of a twist at the end, but I would not dissuade anyone from reading it!