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Islamic Extremists. Shootings. Bombings. Credit Cards. These are the things of Offred’s past. These are the things Offred remembers. She lives now, as a handmaid, for the Commander and Serena Joy. Offred is a vessel–her only job is to conceive a child and keep living life along the guidelines she was taught in her re-education classes.

Offred remembers a time before she wore the red habit, before the rhythm of the whole home depended on her fertile times. Offred had a life, a child, a lover/husband…best friends and a mother who was known for being a woman’s rights activist.

Offred held a job until the day the banks froze accounts belonging to woemn, the same day that the Constitution was ‘susepended.’ Women are now to be dependent on men, it is an edict…and then there is a new order to things. In this new order, there is safety. There are less bombings. There is less to fear.

Offred is one of the lucky ones, and she knows it. Despite her age, she is deemed fertile. She is not, as some havge been, shipped off to the colonies and deemed an unwoman. That is the worst that could happen, apart from not conceiving a baby with the man of the house, acting as a surrogate for the lady of the house.

There is a lot of ceremony in Gilead, where the story takes place. There are a lot of ‘do’s and ‘don’t’s. There is shopping, always done by two handmaids in the company of one another. There is Salvaging–the act of hanging criminals for their wrongdoings for things like perversion or gender treachery (being gay).

There is also an underground female movement called the Femaleroad, where women are helped and taken to other, more sympathetic countries.

After the abrupt end of the novel is an afterward which is dated 2195. It is here where a few details are fleshed out. The Handmaid’s Tale apparently consisted of multiple cassette tapes, with voice recording. It is here we find out the city of Gilead was really Bangor, Maine. Also, the Handmaid’s account may have some holes, particularly where the commander and his wife are

Overall, I enjoyed this book. I’ve read it before, but it was calling to me because of my recent interest in social dystopian novels. Margaret Atwood masterfully melds story, character and societal commentary into one enjoyable novel. There were a lot of things leading to the Cleansing that are in the media now–it definitely made me a bit nervous. The idea that it could happen is sobering.

I received a copy of this book electronically, using my Nook’s LendMe feature and the site

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
286 pages; Houghton Mifflin
Hardcover: 1986;



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