Saturday, March 19, 2016

Quick Pick: The Heart Goes Last, by Margaret Atwood

  • Opening linesSleeping in the car is cramped. Being a third-hand Honda, it's no palace to begin with. If it was a van they'd have more room, but fat chance of affording one of those, even back when they thought they had money. Stan says they're lucky to have any kind of a car at all, which is true, but their luckiness doesn't make the car any bigger.
  • Reason I picked up the book: The author is Margaret Atwood, who wrote dystopian books before "dystopian" was even an actual word - I read The Handmaid's Tale by her in high school and loved it. {and it's free to read on Kindle Unlimited right now, too!}
  • And what's this book about?
  • Living in their car, surviving on tips, Charmaine and Stan are in a desperate state. So, when they see an advertisement for Consilience, a ‘social experiment’ offering stable jobs and a home of their own, they sign up immediately. All they have to do in return for suburban paradise is give up their freedom every second month – swapping their home for a prison cell. At first, all is well. But then, unknown to each other, Stan and Charmaine develop passionate obsessions with their ‘Alternates,’ the couple that occupy their house when they are in prison. Soon the pressures of conformity, mistrust, guilt and sexual desire begin to take over.
  • Favorite paragraph:
  • Ed turns off the PowerPoint, puts on his reading glasses, consults a list. Practical matters: their new cellphones will be issued in the main hall. At the same time they'll receive their housing allocations. The details are explained more fully on the green sheets in their folders, but in brief, everyone in Consilience will live two lives: prisoners one month, guards or town functionaries the next. Everyone has been assigned an Alternate. One detached residential dwelling can therefore serve at least four people: in Month One, the houses will be occupied by the civilians, and then, in Month Two, by the prisoners of Month One, who will take on the civilian roles and move into the houses. And so it will go, month after month, turn and turn about. Think about the savings in the cost of living Ed says with a smile.
  • Recommended for: Anyone who likes dystopian books, or books that imagine different worlds from the ones we live in. This one is not SO different - the economy is down and Ed and Charmaine are homeless. Because of this, however, they decide to participate in the new Consilience/Positron experiment - they're given a house and a "safe life," and they live one month in the house, one month in the prison, and so on. 
  • Something to know: Goodreads says that this is book #4 in a series, but it's wrong - what happened was this: "The Heart Goes Last began as a serial for Byliner, which has now come down. There were four episodes under the title Positron and 64,838 were purchased. Even though the posted episodes have been completely rewritten, Byliner purchasers will be eager to find out what happens."
  • What I would have changed: This was a very kooky book but I'm not sure what I would have changed. Maybe give a bit more backstory for Ed and Charmaine, so we can see how they ended up broke, but Atwood does give a little bit of backstory.
  • Overall rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.
  • Where can I find this book? Click here to order on Amazon.
*Disclosure: I received an e-copy of this book from Edelweiss for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

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