The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood is a dystopian novel from an author who has written frighteningly prescient novels. I mean, The Handmaid’s Tale seemed impossible until the neo-conservatives started making noise in United States politics.
In this novel, Stan and Charmaine are living in their car as their lives and society have fallen apart. The economic collapse has resulted in the couple being jobless, homeless, and facing a violent world where they have no choice but to find a way of surviving. When they learn about an opportunity to give them a haven, a home and employment, naturally they are willing to do anything to be safe. And much will be demanded of both as they sign on the dotted lines.
Although neither Stan nor Charmaine are especially likeable, you do come to care about what will happen to them. There are many twists and turns, fueled by the desperation to live a “typical” life. But when society itself has fallen apart, what is typical and how much can anyone sacrifice to escape an ugly reality?
Atwood does a wonderful job of exploring the cost of sacrificing personal freedom for security. It’s easy to see the implications in our own media as politicians continue to warn us about the dangers of terrorism and illegal immigrants, highlighting how our economy continues to struggle, and we’re on the brink of disaster from within so vote for me and I’ll save you and yours. Yes, my expectations were very high for this novel because it was favorably compared with The Blind Assassin in the blurb but I don’t think this novel comes even close to being as brilliant as the former novel. And with all the unexpected twists and turns presented, there were a few that I saw coming a mile away, including the “big shock” at the end of the novel. Nonetheless, it was a compelling read and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoyed Gone Girl and or loves dystopian literature. Also, I was not aware that this was the fourth of a series of novels, and it definitely works as a stand-alone novel. I may or may not go back and read some of the previous volumes. So many books, so little time.