#863 The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret AtwoodThe Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

Charmaine and Stan live in their car. Stan used to have a job, but he lost it. Charmaine works in a bar. Lots of people don’t have jobs. People live in their cars. Gangs roam the streets rampant and intent on victimizing anybody to make their lives just a little easier.

There’s something going on, an experiment. It’s an experimental community. The community provides jobs and a place to live, the only catch is that every other month you have to go to prison. Husbands and wives are separated. Another couple lives in the house when the first couple is in prison. They’re called alternates.

Life goes ok for a while. Stan works with chickens and Charmaine does something in medication administration. Things start to get a little weird though. A friend had told the couple not to go into the community because it was dangerous. Everything is bugged. People are expected to behave a certain way. Charmaine soon meets the alternate man who lives in her house when she’s not there. The two start an affair, always meeting in abandoned houses, without bugs, or so Charmaine thinks.

This is just the beginning though. It turns out the alternates in Stan and Charmaine’s house are activists and Charmaine and Stan are getting dragged right along with them. Soon the couple is learning about strange sex robots and bran surgery that makes a person imprint on another person. There are sex robots that look like Elvis and they’re a big hit. There’s something even more nefarious going on in the community that involves human beings. Charmaine and Stan are going to play a part in putting a stop to it.

What I liked

I do tend to like most things that Margaret writes and this was no exception, although it’s a little strange. There was definitely humor in this book. Who would think that sex robots that looked like Elvis would be a huge hit? It certainly doesn’t float my boat.

Margaret is looking at a financially depressed society in this book. It’s not now and it may not be ever, but it could be. It’s actually quite plausible. If we had a more significant economic collapse where would people live? It’s very possible that many people would end up out in their cars and on the streets. Is there the potential for humanity to be taken advantage of during this time period? Could humans be placed in facilities to live and work? Yes and yes. If you listen to conspiracy theorists out there, the government has something called FEMA camps, which is where we’re supposedly going to go after we’re rounded up by the government for whatever reason. Is it true? I have no clue.

In this book’s case, the community is run by a private organization, no doubt with backing from various politicians. It’s for profit. There’s nothing magnanimous about this. It’s too good to be true and everyone there should be worried about it.

What I didn’t like

It’s a bit of an awful thing when one part of humanity thinks it can take advantage of another part of humanity for whatever flimsy reasons it gives. In this case, some people were so poor they couldn’t make it on their own, so it’s ok to prey upon them and essentially herd them up like cattle. Not cool.

The thing is, I think there would be some people who would take advantage of others in these situations. Would it be on the nightly news? Maybe not, but I think it would happen.

Overall

If they say they’re going to give you a job and pay your rent, there’s probably a catch so big it could fill Rhode Island.

Weigh In

If you were broke, would you take your chances in a community like the one in this book?

Do you think some people just wait for unfortunate societal circumstances to take advantage of others?

#863 The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood was originally published on One-elevenbooks

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#585 The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

Oh Penelope, left alone for quite a long time while her husband Odysseus went off to fight wars and deal with gods. Penelope was just a teenager when she was married to Odysseus. She was in the shadow of her cousin Helen and was then taken away from her family and off to Ithaca once she was married. She had a son. Life seemed good, or at least alright, until men were called to arms to go to war.

Penelope was left by herself. She didn’t know anything about running a household, but she decided to do her best.

After her husband was gone some time, everyone assumed he was dead. Penelope didn’t want to think this. She had not dreamed of his ghost. Suitors started to show up. They were young. They were boisterous. They were around her son’s age. They all wanted to marry her for her money and her estate, but she didn’t want to marry any of them.

Odysseus did make his way back, as we all know. Penelope arranged a contest for the suitors, which Odysseus won, disguised. Penelope knew it was her husband, but let things play out. She once again had her husband and things went on, even into the afterlife.

What I liked

I have never actually read the Iliad or the Odyssey. They’re considered “epics.” I like poetry, but I don’t like poetry that much. Maybe some day I will read each of these epics, but that day is not today. Despite the fact that I have never read these, I know large parts of the story line. Penelope was a character, but not necessarily one in the spotlight. The story wasn’t really about her, although she was definitely a part of it. I liked that this book was about her and her side of the story.

What I didn’t like

I love Margaret Atwood, but this was one of those books that was difficult to get through. There was poetry mixed in with the text, which I admit to not thoroughly reading. Penelope’s story seemed rather thin, but this was a short book. There wasn’t necessarily enough time to develop Penelope’s story further. Her story is famous and already developed to a point. This book is more like an addition to what we already know of Penelope. I liked that I have more insight into Penelope, but it’s not really deep enough for me.

Overall

Penelope is definitely quite the faithful woman.

Weigh In

If you were in her situation, would you have waited?

Do you feel sorry for Penelope?

#583 Surfacing by Margaret Atwood

 Surfacing by Margaret Atwood Surfacing by Margaret Atwood

A nameless woman’s father is lost and she goes out in the wilderness of Canada to find him. There is some civilization there, but not much. Her boyfriend and another couple come with her on the journey. A boat takes them to the island where her father had his cabin. It was the cabin she used to live in, but she had since moved away. A dark past haunts her. She was married and had a baby, but this fact becomes disputed as the story moves on.

She thinks her father is alive, somewhere, maybe watching from the brush. She tries to find clues as to where he may have gone. There are cryptic drawings that don’t make a lot of sense on a littered desk.

The relationships she has with her boyfriend and friends begins to change. Her boyfriend isn’t really someone she has feelings for. Her friends do not have the perfect marriage. Secret after secret seems to leak out in the wilderness. Ultimately, she chooses to be feral. The world has too much noise. She’s too connected to the land. The loss of her seemingly unloving father is too great.

What I liked

I love Margaret Atwood and I am always happy to read one of her books. This book does have an interesting mystery involved. Where did her father go and why? That’s not all though, she unravels mysteries about herself. Why does she not seem to feel certain emotions? What really happened in her past?

Sometimes a good book is a book that does not answer all of your questions. At the end of this book, I was not sure of her fate, or her past. Did things really happen how she said they happened? She is obviously suffering some mental issues. This book shows the reader how a person can fall apart and doubt themselves.

What I didn’t like

This book was not an easy read and it took me much longer to read it than it should have. The time estimate said 2-3 hours, but it took me longer than that and I’m a fast reader.

The main character concerns me. She obviously has some issues, but she ends up being left to her own devices. How will things turn out for her? How will she live? Will she degrade further than she has? I think it’s unfortunate that she unraveled to the extent that she did.

Overall

Wild Woman

Weigh In

Do you ever daydream of living out in the wild?

Could you make it if you did have to live in the wild?