As an ambassador for Little Brown, I was so lucky to be able to receive a copy of Red Clocks by Leni Zumas for review. I knew that this book had been getting a ton of hype and that a lot of people were really excited about it, but I was worried that the hype was a little biased just based on the fact that it was one of the first novels of feminist literature published this year. But trust me when I say this, the hype is WARRANTED. In fact, I don’t know if it’s even being hyped enough.
Red Clocks follows the story of four women (named only as The Biographer, The Daughter, The Mender, and The Wife) who are living and dealing with a time in the United States where abortion is outlawed. Not only is abortion outlawed, but because of the overturn of Roe v Wade, a snowball effect of reproductive rights are repealed as a result.
The Biographer, a single teacher in her forties, struggles with the notion that she will never be able to have children. Despite her many trips to the doctor’s office with 100 different medications to try and methods to test, The Biographer remains unable to conceive. This issue is further exacerbated by the fact that IVF has also been outlawed, as the government feels that the fertilized egg is a “human being and cannot consent to being implanted” (seems crazy, but I would not be surprised if this became a reality). Not only that, but another deadline is looming on the horizon for her: Soon, the conservative government will put in place a law that will require each child being adopted to be placed in a home with two parents, one mother, and one father. Her hopes of ever being able to have a child of her own dwindle and she’s left with nothing but self-doubt and depression.
The second character, referred to as The Daughter, is a high school student who finds herself to be pregnant after an encounter with a boy who clearly proves that he wants nothing to do with her after he got his way. The Daughter, struggling with her predicament and her need to hide it from her family and everyone around her, starts to panic. Just like what happened in REAL LIFE before Roe v Wade, The Daughter begins to look for places where she can have her “situation taken care of.” She consults the town “witch” (also known to us as The Mender), attempts to leave the country and flee to Canada where abortion is still legal (leave it to Canada to still be acting right), and tries looking for sketchy places that will do it illegally (even if it is totally unsanitary). All she wants is for this baby to be gone at any cost.
The third character, The Mender, is a local woman whose family has been accused of “witchcraft” for many generations. She uses natural herbs to help women with issues they face including a tea mixture that is said to cause abortion naturally. When women come to her, she takes care of them, no questions asked. But when she gets mixed up with the wrong woman, there will be hell to pay. And why does The Daughter look so familiar to her?
The last character, The Wife, struggles with the fact that she wants out of her marriage and away from her children. She now despises being a mother and the thought of caring for her children any longer sends her into a dangerous mindset. To be honest with you, it took me awhile to understand The Wife’s place in this novel and after reading the reviews of a few others, I came to the conclusion that her role is there to further the question “What is a woman’s place in society?” Clearly, the wife does not want to be a wife or a mother, but because of societal expectations, she was forced into these roles. There is even some symbolism around her of a small animal being burnt to a rubbery crisp and in my opinion, this represents who she is: Someone who is slowly burning and dying under the pressure to be who people expect her to be.
Overall, I loved this book. It did so much for me that I didn’t expect it to and frankly, even though it’s labeled as “dystopian”, there was nothing unbelievable about this book. I could very easily see any of the things that happened in this book happening in real life, especially under the current administration. I think that’s what makes this book all the more unsettling: We are so close to seeing this book become nonfiction.
Overall, I gave this book 5/5 stars. It is my favorite book I have read yet this year and I am thrilled that Book of the Month Club made this a pick so that more and more people can enjoy this and take it as a warning of what is to come.
Thank you to Little Brown for sending me a copy for review!