Friday, October 28, 2011

When She Woke by Hillary Jordon

In a dystopian take on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, When She Woke grabs ahold of its readers from the beginning and never let us go. Hannah Payne wakes up in the Chrome Ward, having been injected with a virus to turn her skin red. Having been found guilty of murder for aborting her unborn child, Hannah has been sentenced to live for 14 years as a “Red,” her skin tone advertising to all what her crime was. During her trial, Hannah refused to name her lover, a famous, married pastor whom she still loves. After 30 days in the Chrome Ward, Hannah is released, but her deeply religious family refuses to take her in. She winds up in a halfway house, but living there becomes intolerable, so Hannah flees, trying her luck in a society that is becoming increasingly dangerous for women. The author blends hot-button issues such as 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, and reminiscent, too, of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Controversial? Yes, but an absolute a must-read.

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