The Queen is a fascinating book revealing the life and crimes of Linda Taylor, a Chicago woman who spawned the myth of the infamous welfare queen. While Taylor was undoubtedly a welfare cheat, she was also a kidnapper and perhaps even a murderer… but the welfare fraud was the only thing anyone seemed to care about.
In a dystopian United Stated, Congress passed the Personhood Amendment, which gives a fertilized egg the Constitutional right to life, liberty, and property from the moment of conception. Abortion is illegal. IVF (in vitro fertilization) is banned, and adoptions are soon to be restricted to married couples only. Women who travel to Canada and are suspected of being there in order to get an abortion are sent back to the U.S. for prosecution. The right to choose is a thing of the past. Continue reading “Red Clocks by Leni Zumas”→
In The Power, something has caused the female population to develop a new organ—called a skein—which gave them the ability to deliver electric shocks with their hands. The strength of the shock depended solely on the whim of the one who wielded it—varying between a slight tickle to something powerful enough to kill. In the beginning, only girls had it, but they quickly discovered they could awaken the power in the women with a touch of their hand. Before long, the power was awakened in them all… and the men were afraid. The females were potentially dangerous and must be controlled until “the crisis” ended and things went back to “normal”… but it didn’t end. They couldn’t be controlled, and things were never “normal” again.
Women ruled the world now… and they were every bit as ruthless with their power as the men once were.
How many times has someone said things would be different if women ruled the world? It’s usually meant that things would be better—the world would be a kinder, gentler place. But what if it wasn’t? Alderman thoroughly explores how things would—and wouldn’t—change if the balance of power shifted in this chilling and oft-times terrifying dystopian world.
This book does an excellent job of showing how utterly ridiculous sexism is. It flips the switch, directing discriminatory words and actions toward the men in the story, rather than women. It also illustrates how absolute power can corrupt even those who set off with the best of intentions, and how easily innocent people can be hurt as a result of it.
With scenes of violence (including sexual assault/rape), this book isn’t for the faint of heart. Many of these scenes are disturbing, so readers should be aware of and prepared for that. Even so, I am still declaring this a book worth reading, because it definitely makes you think about how pervasive sexism is this world.
LONGLISTED FOR THE BAILEYS WOMEN’S PRIZE FOR FICTION
What would happen if women suddenly possessed a fierce new power?
In THE POWER, the world is a recognizable place: there’s a rich Nigerian boy who lounges around the family pool; a foster kid whose religious parents hide their true nature; an ambitious American politician; a tough London girl from a tricky family. But then a vital new force takes root and flourishes, causing their lives to converge with devastating effect. Teenage girls now have immense physical power–they can cause agonizing pain and even death. And, with this small twist of nature, the world drastically resets.
From award-winning author Naomi Alderman, THE POWER is speculative fiction at its most ambitious and provocative, at once taking us on a thrilling journey to an alternate reality, and exposing our own world in bold and surprising ways.
About the Author
Naomi Alderman (born 1974 in London) is a British author and novelist.
Alderman was educated at South Hampstead High School and Lincoln College, Oxford where she read Philosophy, Politics and Economics. She then went on to study creative writing at the University of East Anglia before becoming a novelist.
She was the lead writer for Perplex City, an Alternate reality game, at Mind Candy from 2004 through June 2007.
Her father is Geoffrey Alderman, an academic who has specialised in Anglo-Jewish history. She and her father were interviewed in The Sunday Times “Relative Values” feature on 11 February 2007.
Her literary debut came in 2006 with Disobedience, a well-received (if controversial) novel about a rabbi’s daughter from North London who becomes a lesbian, which won her the 2006 Orange Award for New Writers.
Since its publication in the United Kingdom, it has been issued in the USA, Germany, Israel, Holland, Poland and France and is due to be published in Italy, Hungary and Croatia.
She wrote the narrative for The Winter House, an online, interactive yet linear short story visualized by Jey Biddulph. The project was commissioned by Booktrust as part of the Story campaign, supported by Arts Council England.
GATHER THE DAUGHTERS is the story of a group of people living on an isolated island. The story goes that just before the country went up in flames, a small group of men and women brought their families to the island, thus escaping the fate of what would later come to be known as “the wastelands.” The founders formed an entire civilization based around ancestor worship, adhering to the rules set forth by the original inhabitants of the island, such as: limiting the number of children each family is allowed to have, and the declaration that a person may live only so long as they are useful. Knowledge about the wastelands is practically non-existent, and only an elite group of men known as “the Wanderers” are allowed to go there in order to scavenge for supplies.
The island is a particularly restrictive place for girls. They are simply future wives who will marry and have children. But they are allowed a brief respite from a suffocating life bound by rules (called the “shalt-nots”) when summer arrives. They run wild outdoors, doing whatever they want, every summer… until they reach puberty and their “Summer of Fruition”, which marks their final summer of freedom. When it ends, they will marry and have children of their own.
During the summer, one girl sees something horrific—something that should never have happened on the island—and tells the other girls about it. This sparks a rebellion led by Janey Solomon, who is determined the uncover the secrets of the island and the wastelands. But on a secluded island bound by generations of traditions and practices that are disturbing (to say the least), will it even matter? And what price will these rebellious girls be forced to pay, in the end?
It’s been over a month since I read this novel and I’ve been struggling with how to review it because I’m conflicted on how I feel about it. So I’m going to do something a little different from my usual review, and focus on the good, the bad, and the ugly. (I’m pretty sure one I saw this approach by one (or more?) of the bloggers I follow, but I’m not sure who it was. Whoever you/they are… thank you for the idea!)
Simply put, Melamed’s writing is fantastic. Had I been unaware this was her debut novel, I would have assumed she already had a few titles under her belt (or rather, on the shelf). The island society she created is vivid, dark, and disturbing. Every character in the book—major or minor—all have distinct personalities. The different areas of the island and the homes are all described well enough for the reader to easily picture them.
Janey Solomon struck me as a particularly strong character, as well as a tragic one. Each of the four girls whose POVs tell the story are compelling characters, but Janey’s portion of the story, for me, was the most intriguing.
After all the build-up about the mystery of the wastelands, we are left with no solid answers, only suspicions. I assumed from the start there would be some sort of twist concerning this mystery, and while it was often heavily hinted at, it never happened. I was extremely disappointed by this.
Another thing that bothered me is that the story ends on a cliffhanger (in my opinion). If it ended this way because a future sequel is in the works, then it’s a good thing—it works as a finale for this portion of the story, and is a great starting point for the next portion. But if this is meant as a stand-alone book, it’s a very bad thing, indeed, because it hinted at a pay-off that wasn’t there. With this sort of ending for a stand-alone novel, even the most brilliantly written book of all time is going to leave me feeling sour once I reach the end.
I’ve previously described this story as dark and disturbing, and with good reason. One of the accepted practices of the island is father-daughter incest. Looking back, I can see that it’s vaguely hinted at in the blurb (“free of their father’s hands”), but it never occurred to me that that’s what it meant. It’s never graphically described, but still…
I mostly enjoyed reading this book, but I wasn’t a fan of the lack of resolution regarding the mystery of the island and the cliffhanger ending. That was the deciding factor in the three star rating I’ve given this book.
However… I will definitely be keeping an eye out for Jennie Melamed’s next novel. She’s clearly a fantastic writer, and I’m eager to see what she comes up with next!
NEVER LET ME GO meets THE GIVER in this haunting debut about a cult on an isolated island, where nothing is as it seems.
Years ago, just before the country was incinerated to wasteland, ten men and their families colonized an island off the coast. They built a radical society of ancestor worship, controlled breeding, and the strict rationing of knowledge and history. Only the Wanderers–chosen male descendants of the original ten–are allowed to cross to the wastelands, where they scavenge for detritus among the still-smoldering fires.
The daughters of these men are wives-in-training. At the first sign of puberty, they face their Summer of Fruition, a ritualistic season that drags them from adolescence to matrimony. They have children, who have children, and when they are no longer useful, they take their final draught and die. But in the summer, the younger children reign supreme. With the adults indoors and the pubescent in Fruition, the children live wildly–they fight over food and shelter, free of their fathers’ hands and their mothers’ despair. And it is at the end of one summer that little Caitlin Jacob sees something so horrifying, so contradictory to the laws of the island, that she must share it with the others.
Born leader Janey Solomon steps up to seek the truth. At seventeen years old, Janey is so unwilling to become a woman, she is slowly starving herself to death. Trying urgently now to unravel the mysteries of the island and what lies beyond, before her own demise, she attempts to lead an uprising of the girls that may be their undoing.
GATHER THE DAUGHTERS is a smoldering debut; dark and energetic, compulsively readable, Melamed’s novel announces her as an unforgettable new voice in fiction.
About the Author
JENNIE MELAMED is a psychiatric nurse practitioner who specializes in working with traumatized children. During her doctoral work at the University of Washington, she investigated anthropological, biological, and cultural aspects of child abuse. Melamed lives in Seattle with her husband and three Shiba Inus.
A broken engagement. A forbidden affair. The loss of a prestigious job. The announcement that her parents are getting divorced. What else could possibly happen to shake up Marin Bishop’s already wrecked life?
The final bombshell comes with the arrival of twenty-two year old Rachel Moscowitz—Marin’s half-sister—and the painful discovery that Marin’s beloved father isn’t really her father, after all. Shattered and in denial, Marin nevertheless agrees to travel with Rachel to the Beach Rose Inn in Provincetown, to meet their grandmother, Amelia Cabral. Against her wishes, Marin’s mother, Blythe, accompanies them. The group of women spend the summer getting to know one another as decades-old secrets are finally spoken, and the pain of the past confronted at last.
The Forever Summer is an enjoyable story with some surprising twists thrown into the mix. The characters were well written, with vivid personalities. There were times I found myself annoyed with some of the things Rachel did or said, but in hindsight I think it was because she’s a young woman doing/feeling what young women do, and I wasn’t able to identify with it at this time in my life. (I think I may have just insulted myself there, and inferred I was getting old? Yikes!)
My favorite characters were definitely Amelia and Kelly. Their backstory—as well as Blythe’s—was the most interesting part of the story for me. Nadine, Amelia’s daughter, was extremely unlikable, but she had her reasons for behaving the way she did. There were a few twists in the latter part of the book (some good, others not so good) that really surprised me.
I’m giving this one a solid 3.5 stars. I couldn’t decide between three and four stars, so 3.5 felt right in the end.
If you’re looking for books to add to your summer reading list, I would suggest adding this one to your list.
When a DNA test reveals long-buried secrets, three generations of women reunite on Cape Cod for the homecoming of a lifetime.
Marin Bishop has always played by the rules, and it’s paid off: at twenty-eight she has a handsome fiancé, a prestigious Manhattan legal career, and the hard-won admiration of her father. But one moment of weakness leaves Marin unemployed and alone, all in a single day. Then a woman claiming to be Marin’s half-sister shows up, and it’s all Marin can do not to break down completely. Seeking escape, Marin agrees to a road trip to meet the grandmother she never knew she had. As the summer unfolds at her grandmother’s quaint beachside B&B, it becomes clear that the truth of her half-sister is just the beginning of revelations that will change Marin’s life forever. THE FOREVER SUMMER is a delicious page-turner and a provocative exploration of what happens when our notions of love, truth, and family are put to the ultimate test.
Full of delicious descriptions of coastal New England and richly imagined characters, THE FOREVER SUMMER is an emotional, hot-topic page-turner and a summer must-read.
About the Author
Jamie Brenner is the author of The Forever Summer. Her previous novels include The Wedding Sisters and the historical The Gin Lovers (St. Martin’s Press), named by Fresh Fiction as one of the Top Thirteen Books to read in 2013, and Ruin Me, a coming-of-age story set in the art world. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and two daughters.