REVIEW: THE TESTAMENTS, BY MARGARET ATWOOD

 

More than fifteen years after the events of The Handmaid’s Tale, the theocratic regime of the Republic of Gilead maintains its grip on power, but there are signs it is beginning to rot from within. At this crucial moment, the lives of three radically different women converge, with potentially explosive results.

Two have grown up as part of the first generation to come of age in the new order. The testimonies of these two young women are joined by a third voice: a woman who wields power through the ruthless accumulation and deployment of secrets.

As Atwood unfolds The Testaments, she opens up the innermost workings of Gilead as each woman is forced to come to terms with who she is, and how far she will go for what she believes.

As I began reading The Testaments, I was captivated immediately by the alternating voices: witnesses and a person who would soon become known to us as someone plotting the downfall of Gilead. A feat that would require great strength, wisdom, and cunning. I was rooting loudly as I read.

The young witnesses would soon make us aware of their connections to others we met in Gilead, back when we saw how a Handmaiden would help the Gilead destruction begin.

Would our double agent surprise us with her actions? Would we fear for what might happen to her if discovered? Or would we, like others, realize the extent of her involvement only when historic symposiums revealed much of what she had accomplished, many years later? A brilliant futuristic exploration that had me rapidly turning pages. 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: THE ROSIE EFFECT, BY GRAEME SIMSION

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In the sequel to the original journey of Don Tillman and Rosie Jarman, their newest adventures take the reader on another rollicking ride.

Don is still a genetics professor and Rosie is working on her Ph.D. and getting ready to enter medical school.

Many unexpected events seemingly derail the two of them, but they are temporarily back on track when Don finds them a new apartment. His friend Gene’s marriage woes have led to him being a houseguest for a while.

In typical “Don fashion,” we see what happens to him after Rosie announces her pregnancy. He approaches it all like a scientific study, learning about pregnancy and parenthood. But some of his explorations have drastic consequences, and soon he is facing all kinds of problems.

What will Don do to extricate himself from the tricky situation in which he lands? How will he keep the secrets from Rosie, the ones he feels are necessary for her well-being? And what will a social worker named Lydia add to the mix?

There were times in this book that I was annoyed with Don’s inability to react “normally,” but I also found Rosie frustrating. The two of them seemed determined to destroy their marriage. What would finally change everything for them?

Another fascinating journey into the unique world of these characters, The Rosie Effect: A Novel was unputdownable. I give this one 4 stars, primarily because the journey could have been smoother for me, but others might love all the ins and outs of how Don approached everything.

SISTERHOOD BONDS REVISITED — A REVIEW

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Mothers, daughters, and friends are the themes in The Wednesday Daughters: A Novel, the sequel to The Wednesday Sisters: A Novel.

Three of the daughters—Hope, Julie, and Anna Page—are on a journey to learn more about Hope’s deceased mother, Allison Tantry, by visiting the writing cottage where she worked on her unpublished biography of Beatrix Potter.

Set in England’s Lake District, the reader is offered a view of what that place looked like, from the cottages and the surrounding waters to the various pubs and restaurants.

What the women discover first are some journals, some of which are written in code. And while they try to decipher these, we are also shown some backstory: for the mothers and the daughters since we saw them last as little girls and young women in the first book. The daughters, like sisters, have their rivalries. And, like siblings, some of those old issues remain.

Unlike the friendships of their mothers in the first book, the daughters were thrown together by their mother’s choices. They all varied in ages, much more like siblings than chosen friends. And while they maintained lifelong relationships with one another, I didn’t sense the same kind of bond between them that I saw with their mothers.

Can they put the old animosities behind them? Will they finally make peace with their own mothers’ choices? What will they take away with them after the journey? Their mothers’ expectations were a guiding theme as the women reconnected with one another.

The alternating chapters with Allison Tantry’s journals were like a conversation between Allison and Beatrix Potter, almost as if she were channeling her. The daughters decided that she was trying to inhabit Bea in order to accurately write about her.

An engaging story that earned 4.5 stars. Recommended for those who enjoy stories of family bonds and friendships.