In the near future, Roe v Wade, the United States Supreme Court ruling allowing women safe and legal access to abortion, has been repealed. In its place has been passed the Personhood Amendment, which grants the rights of life, liberty, and property to any fertilized embryo. In a small fishing village in Oregon, four women are trying to come to grips with this new world and how it changes their identity as women and potential mothers.
Red Clocks is an example of a world in which one major change can have a snowball effect on an entire community. Author Leni Zumas does not paint a world as dark and dystopian as The Handmaid’s Tale. Women are not property, they aren’t forced to have sex or made to obey their husbands as gods. Even birth control is still perfectly legal. Instead, Zumas’ vision is of a world where day-to-day life carries on almost the same as it did before. In this way, Red Clocks is somehow more unsettling, because the reader feels that this is a world that could rationally exist in their lifetime. It is, in fact, a world that many in the U.S. are actively campaigning to bring about.
In Zumas’ novel the repeal of Roe v Wade creates changes of a sinister and subtle nature. Once abortion is criminalized, it ripples out in ways that extend beyond the scope of whether or not to terminate a pregnancy. In-vitro fertilization is no longer allowed because the embryo can not “agree” to be moved. Adoption is only granted to married couples because they won’t be a “drain” on the system. The border between the United States and Canada becomes a nightmare as women caught trying to cross the border to gain access to abortion clinics are sent back to be prosecuted for attempted murder.
Instead or the outrage and fury that I felt while reading The Handmaid’s Tale, this book instead left me with an overwhelming feeling of sadness. As a woman who has chosen to remain childless at thirty years of age, I could identify with the struggle of Ro, who feels that her life is somehow lesser because she never had kids. I also loved the story of Gin, the herbalist who becomes the last resort for desperate women.
How much of a woman’s identity is tied to her ability to have a child? How much of a woman’s identity should she be prepared to give up in order to raise a child? Why does society say that women who choose not to have children are somehow inadequate or incomplete? These are just some of the questions raised by Red Clocks.
My rating: 4/5
Happy reading everyone!