Monday, March 5, 2012

When She Woke

I got a copy of WHEN SHE WOKE by Hillary Jordan from BEA last year and just something about the cover gave me chills. This is an intense, futuristic re-imagining of The Scarlet Letter, in the style of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. Atwood is one of my favorite authors (saw her speak at John Jay College a few months ago!), so WHEN SHE WOKE, with its blend of literary prose, speculative fiction worldbuilding, and feminist themes, is an automatic favorite.

"Hannah Payne's life has been devoted to church and family. But after she's convicted of murder, she awakens in a new body to a nightmarish new life. She finds herself lying on a table in a bare room, covered only by a paper gown, with cameras broadcasting her every move to millions at home, for whom observing new Chromes--criminals whose skin color has been genetically altered to match the class of their crime--is a sinister form of entertainment. Hannah is a Red for the crime of murder. The victim, says the State of Texas, was her unborn child, and Hannah is determined to protect the identity of the father, a public figure with whom she shared a fierce and forbidden love.

A powerful reimagining of The Scarlet Letter, When She Woke is a timely fable about a stigmatized woman struggling to navigate an America of the not-too-distant future, where the line between church and state has been eradicated, and convicted felons are no longer imprisoned and rehabilitated but chromed and released back into the population to survive as best they can. In seeking a path to safety in an alien and hostile world, Hannah unknowingly embarks on a journey of self-discovery that forces her to question the values she once held true and the righteousness of a country that politicizes faith and love."

You can tell it's good from the first few sentences:

"When she woke, she was red. Not flushed, not sunburned, but the solid, declarative red of a stop sign.

She saw her hands first. She held them in front of her eyes, squinting up at them. For a few seconds, shadowed by her eyelashes and backlit by the hard white light emanating from the ceiling, they appeared black. Then her eyes adjusted, and the illusion faded. She examined the backs, the palms. They floated above her, as starkly alien as starfish..."

Absolutely riveting, sped up my heart, took my breath away, I wasn't sure I could make it to the end, geez.


Sue March 12, 2012 at 1:06 PM  

Just picked this up. Looks awesome!