Review: The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's TaleThe Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After reading ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, I can see why this dystopian classic has made such an impression on so many. This is a book that definitely hangs with you, haunting your thoughts, long after you finish the book. It is thought-provoking and terrifying.

The story centers on the heroine, Offred, who is a “handmaiden” in this futuristic world created by Ms. Atwood. As a handmaiden, Offred’s sole purpose is to produce a baby for the Commander and his wife, Serena Joy. Once she has served her purpose, she will be reassigned to another high-ranking man for the same purpose. This pattern will repeat over and over, until she is no longer able to bear children. What happens then, nobody really wants to talk about. Worse yet, if she fails to produce a child then she will face a fate reserved for the lowliest of women.

This is the world that Offred and others are left with after a brutal civil war stamped out the rights that citizens like Offred had taken for granted. The overthrow of the democratic government was gradual…until it wasn’t. The changes that took place were very insidious.

One moment, people like Offred were consumed with trivial problems, like where they were going to go out for dinner that night. The next thing they knew, a civil war was raging. Soon, their every movement was monitored closely. Of course, this was for their own “protection” and “safety”. Then, women weren’t allowed to hold jobs or manage their own money. (After all, the poor little dears shouldn’t have to bear that burden. A man should handle those sorts of things.) Next, anyone that dared to oppose the new regime was eliminated. Before long, citizens like Offred cannot even recognize their new reality. They are stuck under the rule of an incredibly oppressive, misogynistic regime.

Worst of all, their complacency paved the way for this gradual overthrow. Little by little, they handed over their rights with little resistance. They refused to see the writing on the wall and wanted to believe the lies that they were spoon-fed. Once they wised up, it was too late. Now, they are a people broken. Women, especially, face a grim fate.

This book is remarkable! Although it can be rather slow-moving at times, the message was powerful. This story serves as a cautionary tale and a necessary reminder. Civil rights are hard won and easily lost.

It is easy to draw comparisons to many of this books’ events and the events of the past and present. Ms. Atwood highlights many important issues and offers a great deal of social commentary. There were so many important topics that she touched upon that I can’t even begin to list them.

This book is considered to be a classic for a reason. It is a book that needs to be read and taken in by readers. While it isn’t necessarily the most entertaining read, it is certainly one of the most enlightening and thought-provoking. I highly recommend that everyone read this book, at least once.

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Review: Shatter Me (The Jaded, #1), by Alex Grayson

Shatter Me (The Jaded, #1)Shatter Me by Alex Grayson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This story was upsetting, raw and gritty. I personally love darker stories, but the harrowing account of abuse that Bailey survived was difficult to read about. One particularly graphic scene toward the end required me to take a “time out”, which almost never happens for me.

Essentially, this is a story about a young woman, Bailey, that is on the run from her abusive husband. With little more than the clothes on her back, she moves from town to town, picking up whatever work she can in order to keep her moving. She’s learned the risk of staying in one place too long the hard way. It’s a mistake she doesn’t plan to make again.

When Bailey finds herself in a small town in Ohio, she is immediately welcomed by the town’s friendly residents. Making friends with the waitress she met almost immediately upon her arrival, she is soon hooked up with a job and a place to stay. For the first time in her life, Bailey begins to feel like she might have found a place to fit, where somebody actually cares about her.

After a childhood filled with neglect and abuse while her druggie parents turned a blind eye, and a horrifying marriage, Bailey has some serious self-worth issues. When her new boss, Jaxon, and a variety of other townsfolk take an active interest in her, Bailey is overwhelmed with the support and sense of security she feels. Although she continues to look over her shoulder, she allows herself a bit of a reprieve. She begins to explore her feelings for Jax, even though she doubts she will ever be able to have a “normal” relationship with any man.

If Bailey’s husband, Steven, was the epitome of a monster, then Jax was the quintessential knight in shining armor. Quickly sensing Bailey’s troubled past, Jax steps into the role of protector. If you love a strong Alpha-male, Jax is your guy.

Although his actions were a bit over-the-top and there was a strong “insta-love” vibe, I absolutely loved his character. As the story unfolds, there are events in Jax’s past that explain many of his early actions that seemed over-zealous at the time. He has his own ghosts that haunt him and Bailey’s situation brought it back to the surface.

As a heroine, Bailey was someone that I both pitied and admired. If anyone had ever been dealt a bad hand in life, it was her. She had never known anything other than abuse in her life. She endured things that nobody should ever have to, both as a child and as an adult. Yet, she was strong and resilient. She showed such courage and fight, despite everything that she’d endured.

While I was very much absorbed in Bailey’s story, there were some things that drove me crazy with this book. There were many times that I found myself skimming, because I was overwhelmed with unnecessary details that didn’t add value. It was very frustrating to be on the edge of my seat wondering when Bailey’s psycho husband was going to pop out of the shadows, only to have the suspense derailed by detailed descriptions of every room in a house that went on for pages, etc. I really didn’t need to know the color of the decor or detailed descriptions of what everyone was wearing, so on and so forth. All of the unnecessary details were distracting and took away from the story.

I also had some reservations about the way things played out toward the end. I guess that it is “technically” a HEA, but I wasn’t left feeling very happy. Bailey and Jax get a future together, but that is where the happy ends. I’ll just say that it didn’t work out so well for everybody else and I was left feeling gutted.

Despite my reservations, I thought this was a great story. It was heartbreaking and difficult to read, but all of the best books make you feel things, whether you want to or not. This book will definitely elicit an emotional response.

That being said, take the disclaimer seriously. There are graphic descriptions of abuse, physical, psychological and sexual, contained in this book. There is an abundance of dark material in this book. Although it isn’t gratuitous, in my opinion, it is definitely not for the faint of heart.

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