Freedom and the search for truth are the underlying themes in this sequel to Margaret Atwood’s book, The Handmaid’s Tale, and the show on Hulu. A driving force in many people’s lives and aspirations, this story takes us deep into what it means personally for three women whose lives intertwine in unsuspecting ways.
The author takes us back to Gilead and Canada approximately fifteen years after the end of the third season of The Handmaid’s Tale. We see Gilead, a fascist state that uses an extreme form of Christianity to govern still exists, as cracks are beginning to show in its veneer. We are introduced to a young Agnes Jemina who, as the daughter of a commander, has a much better life than most in Gilead, but her choices are few; however, the few choices she has, she takes full advantage of. The Canadian teen, Daisy, is fairly typical for a girl her age, except for the bohemian existence she leads with her parents. It’s even weirder growing up with a country next door that sends young women (Pearl Girls) as missionaries to convert the disenfranchised. Last but not least is Aunt Lydia. The formidable Aunt who sought to mold and control Offred (June) in the original book is back.
Each of these women’s stories is interesting and unique, but Aunt Lydia’s was the most intriguing to me. For the first time, we see how the women, known as Aunts, were created and how Aunt Lydia, who was once a professional woman, was instrumental in developing the rules upon which the women in Gilead were governed and controlled. Her story resonates with anyone who has ever had to make the moral decision of whether to become a collaborator or to die for your beliefs. Even that decision is not necessarily black or white, for in choosing to live (or collaborate), you have the chance to make a difference from the inside.
The book is a fast read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. As the relationships became clear, it was fun to figure out the truth behind all of the lies. My only quibble (and trying not to give anything away) was some of the decisions made by the resistance group, MayDay. I felt they were not well thought out and put their people’s lives unnecessarily at risk. I wished they were a bit smarter and a tad more ruthless since their foe would stop at nothing to destroy them.
My one bit of advice is that if you have never read the first book or have not seen the TV series, then read and/or watch it. You’ll be able to appreciate the story much better.
Creative Team: Margaret Atwood (writer)
Publisher: Penguin/Random House UK
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