This book is gonna be huge! It comes out this October but I lucked out and received the ARC through a Goodreads giveaway courtesy of Algonquin Books.
Faith, love and sexuality have fallen prey to politics in this stunning creation of America in the near future, from the author whose international bestseller, Mudbound, so hauntingly recreated America’s past.
Hannah Payne’s life has been devoted to church and family, but after her arrest, she awakens to a nightmare: she lies on a table in a mirrored 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 new and sinister form of reality TV. Hannah is a Red; her crime is 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.
Inspired by The Scarlet Letter, When She Woke is a dark fable about a stigmatized woman struggling to navigate a dystopian, theocratic America of the not-too-distant future, where 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 moral authority of a country that politicizes the personal.
I don't want to gush over-excessively because whenever something gets hyped too much...people inevitably want to find fault with it. But seriously, this was an amazing book!
The first thing that came to my mind when reading this novel was how timely it is. It's not a big leap to make into Jordan's near future world. Despite being a dystopian novel, the book resonates with issues plaguing the modern-day U.S. political landscape. The first obvious connection to be made between this fictional world and our own is that evangelical Christian ideals are being increasingly interwoven with politics. The author posits a world where this inclusion of the (extremely strict) Church with the State has far-reaching and devastating effects.
Another eerily similar link is the reduction of women's reproductive rights (i.e. my own Hoosier state attempting to ban Federal funds from Planned Parenthood...which is likely to be overturned). I know this is a very sensitive subject for all folks - and I respect everyone's opinions (just putting that out there). Jordan reveals the slippery slope of these backward steps in When She Woke. And that's all I'm going to say about that, given the divisiveness of this subject.
One last (albeit strange) similarity is that, in the book, a super venereal disease wipes out a large portion of the population...causing the religious fervor to become rampant. And guess what has been recently reported? An incurable "super-gonorrhea" strand has been found in Japan that could prove to be a huge public health threat. Creepy, no?
Disturbing similarities aside, this dystopian take on The Scarlet Letter had me engrossed from the first sentence. Not only is this a gripping page-turner, but it has some serious issues to ponder. When She Woke would make an excellent selection for a book club - imagine the discussion possibilities (feminism, judging of others, homosexuality, right vs. wrong, the church and various sects of Christianity, and the list goes on...)!