The Testaments


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  • Rot at the Core

    4 out of 5

    Written by , Posted on at 5:03:59 PM

    As in her first powerful novel set in the fictional Republic of Gilead, Ms. Atwood takes us through its world through the voice of the female. However, there are three women speaking here, each one giving her unique take on what Gilead means to them. One is an elder woman who was taken prisoner during its inception. Aunt Lydia was a judge until her rank, money and job were stripped from her. Considered a criminal because of a divorce and an abortion, she is given a grim choice: become a part of the emerging regime or torture and ultimately death by firing squad. Determined to survive and destroy the society that has brutalized her, Aunt Lydia makes her way to the top of the hierarchy and uses carefully gleaned secrets to topple it from within. The story is gripping, terrifying, edifying and deeply disturbing. As you would expect with a theocracy that wields power through lies, coercion, bribery, false testimony and torture, the Republic of Gilead is primed for a fall, even while fighting to maintain an image of purity and Godliness. People are escaping across the border to Canada and we cheer even as we swallow bile at a corrupt patriarchy that allows prominent men to keep mistresses, molest children and stealthily murder their wives. The three women are all determined to survive at almost any cost, each in her own way. Ms. Atwood makes all of their voices convincing and compelling. If the author fails at anything, it’s the curious blindspots in her characterizations. As in the previous novel, we don’t learn anything about what happens to homosexuals (and there’s almost no mention of blacks). Why does Ms. Atwood omit mention of them? Lesbians would have a particularly rough time in Gilead and yet we don’t even get a whiff of girl-on-girl love, which is what you would expect in a bunch of girls forced to attend all-female schools. Some people would find this minor quibbling. The novel contains solid world building, gripping action, riveting situations and powerful conversations. It is a terrific and convincing sequel to her first installment in this duology and, again, a stern warning of what can happen if we don’t take note of what our leaders are doing and the policies they are setting in place. While you read, you wonder what you would do if such a crisis ever arose. it’s the kind of novel that forces you to ask hard questions about yourself and the world in which you live. If theocrats came to power in America what shape would their government take? What would we do to survive in it, outwit it or escape it?