When She Woke is a particularly good nod to Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, but even more, it is a fabulous tale of self-discovery. When Hannah Payne wakes up with red skin (a punishment as well as an indicator of her crime), it catapults her into a desperate flight for her life. While trying to negotiate her futuristic world, Hannah begins to see herself in two distinct ways: before and after. The slow unraveling of her previously held beliefs and blind assumptions is truly satisfying. When She Woke is a harrowing dystopian adventure as well as a contemplative journey of self-discovery. References to Scarlet Letter are a delicious cherry on top. Recommended By Dianah H., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
Hannah Payne's life has been devoted to church and family, but after her arrest, she awakens to a nightmare: she is lying on a table in a bare room, covered only by a paper gown, with cameras broadcasting her every move to millions at home, for whom observing new Chromes — criminals whose skin color has been genetically altered to match the class of their crime — is a new and sinister form of entertainment. Hannah is a Red; her crime is murder. The victim, according to the State of Texas, was her unborn child, and Hannah is determined to protect the identity of the father, a public figure with whom she's shared a fierce and forbidden love.
When She Woke is a fable about a stigmatized woman struggling to navigate an America of a not-too-distant future — where the line between church and state has been eradicated and convicted felons are no longer imprisoned and rehabilitated but chromed and released back into the population to survive as best they can. In seeking a path to safety in an alien and hostile world, Hannah unknowingly embarks on a path of self-discovery that forces her to question the values she once held true and the righteousness of a country that politicizes faith.
"[A] chilling futuristic novel." O, The Oprah Magazine
"Jordan manages to open up powerful feminist and political themes without becoming overly preachy and the parallels with Hawthorne are fun to trace." Kirkus
"Jordan blends hot-button issues such as separation of church and state, abortion, and criminal justice with an utterly engrossing story, driven by a heroine as layered and magnetic as Hester Prynne herself, and reminiscent, too, of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. Absolutely a must-read." Booklist (Starred Review)
"Christian fundamentalists may shun this novel, but book clubs will devour it, and savvy educators will pair it with Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter. Essential." Library Journal
About the Author
Hillary Jordan grew up in Texas and Oklahoma and received her MFA in fiction from Columbia University. Mudbound, her first novel, was awarded the 2006 Bellwether Prize, founded by Barbara Kingsolver to recognize literature of social responsibility.