When She Woke: When the Line Between Church and State is Blurred

Review: When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

If you’ve been paying attention to my blog, then you already know that The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is my favorite book of all time. I’ve always loved dystopian novels and women’s rights are obviously always topics of concern for me. After reading The Handmaid’s Tale, I was constantly on the hunt for anything similar since I didn’t think we would ever get a sequel (see this post for how Atwood proved me wrong!). I searched blogs and Pinterest for suggestions for books like it and I’ve read a few that have been listed. One that came up a few times in the last several years is Hillary Jordan’s novel When She Woke.

The story is set in the not-so-distant future. Unlike The Handmaid’s Tale where America is no longer and a new theocratic regime has taken over, When She Woke is set in a country that is still very much America, but the line between church and state is not as clearly defined as it once was. Extreme conservative views have become pervasive and have taken root in government at levels we have never seen. Not only is the majority of society anti-choice when it comes to abortion, but there is now extreme consequence to anyone receiving or assisting someone in receiving an abortion. Criminals are now “chromed” meaning they undergo a process that tints their skin tone so that all of society immediately knows the nature of their crime. Our main character, Hannah, is a Red. She is charged with murder for receiving an abortion. The novel takes us through the impossible decision she must make in such a religious and conservative society and the consequences she faces. We see how society responds to a woman like Hannah and the punishment she receives beyond just the altering of her appearance as she attempts to navigate this new life and chase freedom, if that’s even possible for her.

I’m drawn to any book that discusses women’s rights, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction. Although women today aren’t forced to alter their appearance when they get an abortion in our society, the right to choose is still being threatened by factions of the country every day. A woman’s right to choose what is best for her still remains between her and her doctor, but women are unfortunately not free from the scrutiny that comes from making such a difficult choice. The concepts of Hillary Jordan’s novel are partly inspired by The Scarlet Letter, but more so inspired by the reality that women continue to face every day. When She Woke is great for any fans of dystopian novels, like myself. It’s also great for those that are concerned with women’s rights (so hopefully, everyone). Keep an eye out on the blog for future reviews of other books that have been compared to The Handmaid’s Tale! You know I will find them, read them, and review them for you!


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