Hannah Payne awakens to a nightmare. She is lying on a table in a bare room, covered only by a paper gown, with cameras broadcasting her every move to millions at home. She is now a convicted criminal, and her skin color has been genetically altered. Her crime, according to the State of Texas: the murder of her unborn child, whose father she refuses to name. Her color: red. The color of newly shed blood.
In Hannah's America, sometime in the future, faith, love, and sexuality have fallen prey to politics. Convicted felons are no longer imprisoned and rehabilitated, but "chromed", forced to appear in a new and sinister form of reality TV, and released back into the population. Stigmatized in a hostile world, they must survive the best they can.
Until her arrest, Hannah had devoted her life to church and family. In seeking a path to safety, she is forced to question the values she once held true and the righteousness of a country that politicizes the personal.
©2011 Original material ©2011 Hillary Jordan. Recorded by arrangement with Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, a division of Workman Publishing Company, Inc. Excerpt from Sharon Morris's "Not Just an Image" from False Spring, © 2007 Sharon Morris, Enitharmon Press, London, UK. Excerpted by permission of the author. (P)2011 (p) 2011 HighBridge Company
"Jordan blends hot-button issues such as the separation of church and state, abortion, and criminal justice with an utterly engrossing story, driven by a heroine as layered and magnetic as Hester Prynne herself." (Booklist [HC starred review])
Say something about yourself!
I saw it promoted as a "reimagining" of The Scarlet Letter - which, let's face it, is quite a tall order - but it seems to me as if Hillary Jordan used The Scarlet Letter only as a fruitful springboard and inspiration. She isn't slavishly devoted to the text, although she certainly paid tribute to some of the Hawthorne's key insights into the human condition. This is all to the good.
Although the novel wasn't marketed as a "young adult dystopia," it easily fits into that category, as twenty-something Hannah Payne experiences a true coming of age as she grows into and accepts herself.
Set in a not-too-distant future United States that suffers from excessive surveillance, moral superiority, and inhumane "justice" (creating the dyed "Chromes" whose bodies telegraph their crimes), the novel manages to achieve a number of impressive objectives. Hannah is a deeply sympathetic character who gradually becomes aware of how small her world has been, and how many "boxes" she's willingly confined herself in (mentally, spiritually, and physically) over her young life. We experience the unfairness and brutality of her sentencing and ostracism, and yet the horror of what she chose to do -- abort the baby of a famous married minister -- is never underplayed. Despite the fact Hannah rejects the unquestioning fundamentalism of her upbringing, she fully embraces the central importance of religious faith in her life.
Every time I expected Jordan to descend into stereotypes -- about Southerners, Christians, straight or gay people, men or women, those who are made victims or those who refuse to become so -- she instead offered layered and complex characterizations and thought-provoking twists. The father who is loyal to his traditional church and nuclear family is painted with sensitivity, as is the lesbian revolutionary and her dedication to the underground movement that opposes the status quo. Even the weak-willed minister, the father to Hannah's unborn baby, is poignant in his shame, self-loathing, and lack of moral courage.
There are some true villains, but all of them are opportunists who exploit the system(s) for their own perverse and personal enjoyment of control over those who have no recourse or self-defense. In the end, this dystopia challenges us to examine our assumptions and to accept responsibility for our lives, souls, and decisions. I appreciate Jordan's ability to critique the deeply flawed institutions humans have created without casually dismissing the reasons they came to exist in the first place.
This novel is challenging in the questions it raises and unflinching in its warnings, as any quality dystopia should be. I'm very glad that I listened to it.
This was a riveting disturbing book I couldn't turn it off! I will recommend it to friends. I will listen to it again sometime.
An unbelievable roller coaster of emotions. Being transported into a completely different world through beautifully described passages. Even the the people who are a tiny blip in the grand scheme of the story have deep character. At times a challenge to get through due to subject matter, it was a challenge I enjoyed. It took me out of my comfort zone, made me think, and put me right there by Hannah's side. This book will have a permeate spot on my iPod.
This book was really different than most but it was really enjoyable. It was fiction, but not so far fetched that you couldn't imagine that it could happen. When I first heard the narrator I thought she would not be enjoyable, but since it turned out the main character was a young women, the voice fit.
I am not into religion books and I would not say this is a "religious" book. There is a lot about religion but it is more about finding the right path for yourself. This has a great plot and story. I could not "put it down"! I have recommended it to my brother and nephew. I would say that you might find it offensive if you are a very religious person. For example, I would not suggest this to my mom as she would probably not like it. But if you like a good story, good characters and a good book, then READ THIS!
An alpaca farmer in Oregon.
This story had the setup to address any number of serious political and religious issues: women's rights, crime & punishment, religion and persecution. Instead, it ducked the issues, and became a teen coming of age romance. All it needed was a vampire to complete the picture. I was disappointed.
Homemaker, married to Dave Bargar, mother of 8, Christian, Seventh-day Adventist, love to read!
I did not read the print book.
When she experienced her parents reactions.
The second awakening.
It was compelling, but I enjoyed piece mealing it.
When She Woke is a dystopian novel that takes place after the "scourge", a virus that causes the majority of women to become infertile. In response, fundamentalist religious groups get Roe v. Wade overturned and abortions are now illegal. It's a frightening vision of a future where to be “other” is bad and where the right to control your body is taken away. Many readers will see similarities to The Scarlet Letter and The Handmaids Tale, but it is its own novel and tells the familiar story in a new way.
I rather enjoyed the narrator, Heather Corrigan; I thought she did a great job with the diversity of voices and accents. I highly recommend this book and it’s definitely credit worthy.
It was dull and flat.
A very poor retelling of the Scarlet Letter. It had potential; however, it missed the mark on all points.
Canadian girl in Kansas, love audible, books on kindle or kindle fire, and old fashioned books! I enjoy fiction most, mostly books with strong female leads. Favourite authors: Diana Gabaldon, Stephen King, Jodi Picoult, Wally Lamb, Pat Conroy, Andre Dubus III, Lisa Genova, many more!
Hillary Jordan takes us to a time where abortion is again, illegal. This is the very near distant future. This could be our future. Instead of filling up prisons with people, people are made to be outcasts and second class citizens by dyeing their skin.
Hannah wakes up to find that her skin is now red. She looks horrific and she is embarrassed and confused. She was impregnated by a very popular preacher, but the tragic part is he was married. She is deeply in love with the preacher and does not want to give his name. Because she refused to name him, she received the punishment. She was under questions because Hannah decided to get an abortion which are, in Jordan's futuristic book, entirely illegal. She is forced to serve a brief prison sentence and go into a half-way home for women of different colours. The colours are indicative of their crime. Red people killed- and murder includes the murder of an unborn child. Yellow people have stolen something. The list goes on.
An underground group of people who save those who have been unjustly accused of these crimes and left to live as outcasts eventually saves Hannah, but she must cut all times with the people she's cared about for her entire life.
Throughout her journey, Hannah makes some serious self discoveries which she probably would not have if this hadn't happened. She realizes that the situation she was in was not a good one for her psyche. She sees things from a different perspective. She is shunned by her family and even her sister's husband, who makes it a habit to kill the coloured criminals. She finds that her lifestyle when 'normal' wasn't all it was cracked up to be, and she discovers herself and revels in how strong she is. Her skin and her circumstances empower her.
The book can be compared to the Scarlet Letter because the heroine's colour eventually defines her as a stronger person, just as the scarlet letter also eventually defined Esther not as an outcast, but as a badge of honour. Also comparable to The Scarlet Letter, the baby by the clergyman is another similarity. I thought the book was done well and I found it very interesting. I had a hard time putting it down, as it made me think of so many current political problems and hot topics that are going on in the world right now.
The narration was extremely well done. I enjoyed listening to the reader at the speed of 1.5 throughout the book. I loved the fade in music for each chapter.
It's an easy read, sort of like a Young Adult book.
I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a good, thought provoking read. 4 Stars
***This review is mine and is also published on www.audible.com
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