Friday, July 06, 2007

The Handmaid's Tale

by Margaret Atwood
Offred is a "handmaid" in a society very different from ours, but potentially only a few years away. Her only purpose in life is to bear a child for the Commander and his wife, who, like so many, can't conceive a child. Once a month, she's the center of the Ceremony, when the Commander's wife holds her and the Commander does his best to impregnate her. Offred remembers a different life, though, when she had her own name (not "of-Fred"), a loving husband and daughter, a job at the library, where she was allowed to read, to vote, to make her own decisions, travel wherever she wanted, use birth control, wear makeup, use her voice.

With The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood accomplished not only a staggering work of speculative fiction, but also a great literary thriller. It chills me to the bone, and reminds me to keep an eye on fundamentalists, no matter what their religion. Long live our hard-won bill of rights.

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