In a not too distant future, America has implemented the Personhood Amendment, giving an embryo the same rights as a person from the very moment of conception. Seeking an abortion is now a criminal offence, in-vitro fertilisation is banned and women are forced to pay for funerals for foetuses lost through miscarriage. On the horizon is a new law preventing single parents adopting.
There is a tendency for people to compare any book on reproductive rights to The Handmaid’s Tale and I don’t think that has done Red Clocks any favours. It’s much more a reflection on what it’d be like if these laws were applied to the present day. The blurb says it explores the question of what a woman is for but it answers that in a very narrow way, it’s definitely focused on motherhood.
It follows five women in a small Oregon town. The Biographer is a history teacher, writing a biography of a forgotten arctic explorer whilst trying for a child. She is single, the law has stopped her using in-vitro fertilisation and soon even her back-up plan of adopting will be out of reach.
The Daughter is a fifteen-year old who becomes pregnant and seeks abortion. Through her we see all the ways women try and circumnavigate the law. Her fear and desperation shines though. She visits The Mender, a woman whom lives out in the woods and is considered by many to be a witch. The Mender uses herbal remedies to help women with many gynaelogical problems.
She knew—it was her job as a teacher of history to know—how many horrors are legitimated in public daylight, against the will of most of the people.
The Wife has two young children and her married life is not as happy as it seems from the outside. She is connected to the other women through her husband. I found her story to be a bit boring to be honest, and it didn’t contribute as much to the discussion as the others.
The fifth woman is the arctic explorer that Ro (The Biographer) is writing about. You only read about her through extracts from Ro’s manuscript and so she felt like an incomplete character. Though she does highlight the struggles of women in the past, and she helps provide an answer at the end of the book. There are ways to leave a mark on the world that don’t involve children. She also provide a link with the past and present, via the whales.
I thought at the start that the women would all remain anonymous, but as they interact with each other, their names are revealed. They are more than just their label. I liked how their stories connected, revealing different aspects of how the laws affect them.
I could easily believe this happening in America, especially with recent political events. I don’t think that Canada would be so compliant though. The “Pink Wall” is the border that desperate girls and women cross in order to seek a termination. If they are caught, they hand them over to US law enforcement. I’d like to think Canada would be more compassionate, to provide the help that Britain has been providing to Irish women over the years.
There are plenty of mentions of vaginas. Ro talks a lot about her attempts to get pregnant, her visits to the doctor. Jin is open about them too, what with treating them, and Susan laments her ageing body parts.
The audiobook has two narrators, Karissa Vacker and Erin Bennett, which helps a lot with the multiple viewpoints. Each voice felt distinct but not silly. I did get a bit paranoid that my headphones would get pulled out right when they were in the middle of talking about their vaginas. I don’t think I could cope with listening to any raunchy romance for this reason!
POPSUGAR Reading Challenge: 21. A book with your favorite color in the title
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