Red Clocks

Published in 2018; by Leni Zumas

I have a lot to say about this book. It might be the timing — the SCOTUS hearings have prompted more discussion about women’s reproductive rights in America. But also: I have been researching this subject for the past few years for my PhD and I currently #AmQuerying my own novel that explores the same issues as Zumas. Turns out that when you consider a government that controls women’s fertility, the repercussions are frighteningly predictable.

Red Clocks is set in an America like the one we know, except that abortion is entirely outlawed. There are four central (loosely connected) characters: The Biographer, The Daughter, The Mender, and The Wife. All but the first is a mother in the biological sense, but it is the biographer who is the most maternal: she is selfless and loving; she teaches and listens. And while she doesn’t have a child, she wants one more than anything else. New restrictions have made it impossible for her to have a baby, and ironically her would-be pregnancy is the most considered and desired one in the whole of the novel. This prompts us as readers to ask what right a government has to control who has a baby and who does not.

All of these women were fascinating, but the biographer is the most self-aware, introspective of them all, and the one I connected with the most. She considers why she wants a child, if it is a fleeting biological urge or something she truly wants; she weighs it against her other desires for her own life. At the same time, the other three women are weighing their choices for creating the lives they want, too. And in all cases, it is a controlling government and a society that places unfair and unrealistic expectations on women that complicates these choices. This is precisely the kind of literature we need to help change the narrative (and laws) for women across the world. Five stars.

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