Okay, what the hell did I just read?! I came into this one pretty fresh off The Handmaid’s Tale, and it could not possibly be any different. They’re both dystopian, sure, but where Handmaid’s Tale is bleak, serious, brilliant literary fiction, The Heart Goes Last is smutty, campy and ridiculous.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s certainly a highly readable book—a pageturner of sorts. And it starts off with an interesting premise: Stan and Charmaine, a homeless couple living out of their car, accept an opportunity to take part in an experiment that promises to solve unemployment and crime and provide people with a meaningful life. Once they sign that contract, they’ll live out the rest of their lives in a gated community with everything they need…the only catch is that they have to spend every other month in the community’s prison system.
What begins as a compelling commentary on the prison industrial complex and the inevitable downsides of utopian societies goes completely off the rails halfway through and devolves into something else entirely. In fact, at times it’s hard to believe you’re still reading the same story.
It seems like Atwood came into this with lots of really interesting disparate ideas that she wasn’t able to converge into a cohesive narrative. Or maybe not…maybe she just wanted to write something completely out there.
As a full novel, if didn’t really work for me. And it didn’t help that the final quarter was way too drawn out. Also worth mentioning is that the characters of Stan and Charmaine behaved in ways that were frustratingly inconsistent with my understanding of them.
I don’t know. It’s honestly amazing to me that the same person who wrote The Handmaid’s Tale wrote this.