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elisava-grace has commented on (2) products.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Handmaid's Tale

elisava-grace, December 10, 2009

"The Handmaid's Tale" is unquestionably an excellent piece of literature, and Margaret Atwood is very effective in drawing the reader into the world of the Republic of Gilead. As the story unfolded, I found myself both drawn to and repulsed by the events. It was a fascinating story, but also disturbing and threatening, especially when the reader understands that the vast majority of the events in the book were based off of actual occurrences in history.

Atwood's novel is the story of a woman who previously had what would widely be considered a "normal" American life. She had a career, a husband, and a daughter. But after the U.S. government was overthrown and replaced by the Republic of Gilead, she lost her family, job, and rights. In the Republic of Gilead, women are no longer allowed to read, and are divided into different positions. The main character becomes a handmaid, and exists solely for the purpose of providing an infertile couple with a child. She is referred to as Offred, or "of Fred," making reference to the man who is supposed to fertilize her. She is also restricted to a specific uniform as a handmaid, a long red dress with red gloves, and a white hat with long flaps that shield her face from strangers. Ultimately, the new government has stripped her of her identity.

Atwood bravely explores the repercussions that such a governmental system would have on this handmaid. She tells the story of Offred's past in brief flashbacks, and also recounts her re-education as a handmaid. Offred has become an unemotional and determined woman who clings to fantasies of her family and desperate grasps of love to survive.

This is a difficult book to read. In particular passages, it is easy to understand why this book could be banned or suppressed. However, it tells a story that ought to be told, both to remember those in history who have had similar experiences and to caution against the future. Furthermore, Atwood does this effectively and well.
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The Sparrow (Ballantine Reader's Circle) by Mary Doria Russell
The Sparrow (Ballantine Reader's Circle)

elisava-grace, November 1, 2009

"The Sparrow" is anything but an average piece of science fiction. While the story does take place in the future and revolves around a first-contact mission to another planet, it is ultimately about the healing process for the novel's protagonist, a Jesuit priest named Emilio Sandoz. It is clear from the beginning of the story that something tragic has occurred on the alien planet that has left Emilio disfigured (physically and emotionally), as well as the sole survivor. Russell slowly reveals what transpired to scar Emilio in this way by exploring different years from chapter to chapter--jumping from 2019 to as late as 2060. While this can at first be confusing, the reader will soon begin to resolve the mystery and understand how the past has affected the present. This novel asks deep philosophical questions, the most prominent one being: "How does one know when something is the will of God?" Russell crafts her characters skillfully, and her excellent writing makes this an enjoyable read. This book is sure to resonate with anyone who has suffered or felt alone in the world.
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