Book Review: Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

Red Clocks  by Leni Zumas Genre:  Dystopian fiction Synopsis:   In a small Oregon fishing town, five very different women navigate the...

Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

Genre: Dystopian fiction

In a small Oregon fishing town, five very different women navigate these new barriers alongside age-old questions surrounding motherhood, identity, and freedom. Ro, a single high-school teacher, is trying to have a baby on her own, while also writing a biography of Eivør, a little-known 19th-century female polar explorer. Susan is a frustrated mother of two, trapped in a crumbling marriage. Mattie is the adopted daughter of doting parents and one of Ro's best students, who finds herself pregnant with nowhere to turn. And Gin is the gifted, forest-dwelling herbalist, or "mender," who brings all their fates together when she's arrested and put on trial in a frenzied modern-day witch hunt.

Content/Trigger Warnings: Misogyny, abortion/miscarriage/pregnancy, self harm

Overall rating:  ★★★★☆

Considering the day and age we’ve reverted to here in the US, Red Clocks was a tough book to get through. It wasn’t poorly written or absurd. In fact, for a book released in 2018, it’s quite prophetic. The problem, for lack of a better word, is that the story was too real. Though written and released as dystopian or science fiction, it’s eerily similar to the current state of the country from which I write this review. I also found the format of the book to be a bit choppy. It wasn’t super flowy from one chapter to the next, and that made “effortless reading” more difficult than it could have been. That was my biggest qualm with the book itself.

The way this story was written was pretty incredible. The main characters, all women, were typically referred to as their professions/identifiers instead of their names (the wife, the mender, the daughter, the biographer). It really emphasized the way womxn are seen as objects instead of people, and while it was incredibly uncomfortable, it also circumnavigated the way we, as a society, tend to add value to womxn based on how they can serve purpose to others as opposed to seeing the value in who they are (ie, “they’re somebody’s mother/daughter/etc”).

"Have you ever considered, people, how much time has been stolen from the lives of girls and women due to agonizing over their appearance?"

The literary devices were often frustrating and seemed to be “trying too hard.” It did make the book a little less “fun” too read, and made it feel more “oh, I’m reading this for school” in a way, but this book isn’t one that’s meant to be fun. It’s meant to be informative and powerful. It’s meant to make you mad for womxn’s rights and the lack of bodily autonomy we are allowed. I mean, the content is not enjoyable. This isn’t a happy book. It lets us see the harm in complacency, and gives us a look into what our country may become within mere months. It’s horrifying, honestly. What’s worse is that I’m sure there are people who would read this book and not see what’s so bad about it. “Oh, all these laws and policies seem reasonable and should be in place IRL.” That may be what’s scariest of all.

I’ve seen reviews of this book that are basically “Don’t read it. The storylines are gross and absurd.” But again, the content of this book isn’t meant to be enjoyable. This isn’t escapism. It’s not feel good fun times. We all suffer different things when it comes to being womxn and how we feel about children. Some of us have no intention of having children, and that’s fine. Some would birth a child they don’t want and put it up for adoption. Some would have an abortion. Others yearn for a child but are unable to conceive or carry to term. We’re all going through different things and would react to situations in completely opposite ways. This book explores that. I don’t think that’s gross or absurd at all. It’s hard to think about, but that’s completely different. Should you read this book? I think so. I think it’s informative and makes you think. But I also believe it’s very much a “reader beware” situation. As I said, we’re all different, and that’s okay. Decide what makes the most sense for you … it’s kind of the moral of the story.

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