Monday, September 28, 2015

The Heart Goes Last

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood
Knopf Doubleday: 9/29/15
eBook review copy, 320 pages
ISBN-13: 9780385540353

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood is very highly recommended, brilliant surrealistic dystopian novel which will likely be banned somewhere in the future for any number of hot topics it contains. I can't help but think that the release was purposefully planned to be during this week, banned book week.

Charmaine and Stan are a young couple who have lost their jobs and their house. They are lucky they have a car to live in and escape from those who aren't so fortunate and might have larceny or worse on their minds. Charmaine is working as a bartender to make a little money for the two. When Charlene sees an ad by Positron for Consilience, a city with jobs and security, she and Stan decide to check it out. The deal is it is a closed system and you sign up for life.

The set up for  Consilience/Positron is based on a contained population/workforce that shares prison/town duties. "Medium-size towns with large penitentiaries could maintain themselves, and the people inside such towns could live in middle-class comfort. And if every citizen were either a guard or a prisoner, the result would be full employment: half would be prisoners, the other half would be engaged in the business of tending the prisoners in some way or other. Or tending those who tended them. And since it was unrealistic to expect certified criminality from 50 percent of the population, the fair thing would be for everyone to take turns: one month in, one month out. Think of the savings, with every dwelling serving two sets of residents! It was time-share taken to its logical conclusion. Hence the twin town of Consilience/Positron."

There is no homelessness, everyone is employed, and the profits go to keeping the system running and everyone happy. Charmaine and Stan are satisfied, for a while, but soon they seem to be feeling some discontent with their carefully planned lives, especially when they become obsessed with the couple who live in their house on alternate months. Their separate sexual involvement with this couple sets them up as pawns to be involved in a complex scheme.

Atwood's writing is astute, exceptional, and clever. The story is innovative and absurd. Above all else, The Heart Goes Last is entertaining, even as it incorporates and questions many societal controversies in the plot. And I am talking about the kind of controversies that keep talk shows on the air and set blogs burning. There is adult language and sex, which seems to bother many, but perceptive readers are going to see the social commentary underneath the farce-like situations and satire.

My review copy was courtesy of Knopf Doubleday for review purposes.

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