Title: Red Clocks
Author: Leni Zumas
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (January 16, 2018)
Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Feminist Literature, Dystopian, Women’s Fiction
Trigger Warnings: Abortion, Domestic Violence, Coarse Language
I bought Red Clocks as a part of my January Book of the Month club box. Thank you to Book of the Month for providing us the option to purchase an early release copy of Red Clocks. All opinions are my own.
Red Clocks occurs in an America where “the Personhood Amendment” has granted every embryo the right to consent. Thus, Roe vs. Wade is overturned (as the embryo cannot consent to its termination) and in vitro fertilization is banned (as the embryo cannot consent to its fertilization). To further the Personhood Amendment agenda, the Every Child Needs Two initiative will take effect making it impossible for single parents to adopt. In a small town outside of Salem, Oregon, four women attempt to navigate the world they were dragged into. The biographer, an avid feminist, never wanted to settle down but is desperately trying to have a child on her own. The wife is attempting to maintain structure in her failing marriage, desperately regretting not finishing law school. The daughter was adopted herself, but after finding out she is pregnant, doesn’t want her child to feel the same way she does regarding her biological mother. And the mender, a herbalist living off the grid, is arrested for attempting to terminate a fake pregnancy. As their lives intertwine, we are shown the true resilience of the human spirit.
First off, I want to make it very clear that “Red Clocks” mean vaginas – a fitting title for a story about the regulation of female bodies. Secondly, although this novel occurs in a “Pro-Life” world; the story is extremely “Pro-Choice”. If you are looking for a novel that showcases how wonderful the world would be if abortion was illegal, this is NOT the book for you. Red Clocks highlights the dangers of a pro-life world. Even with the “Pink Wall”, an agreement between Canada and the US stating Canada will deport any woman looking for a legal abortion of IFV treatment in Canada to the American authorities, the rich can fly to any other countries for the procedure and the poor will turn to back-alley “doctors.”
Segueing from that, my favorite element of the story was how Zumas referred to the women only by their titles, instead of their names, during their corresponding chapter. At first, I was frustrated as it made the characters harder to relate too. Then, about a fourth of the way into the book, I realized that was the point. Zumas wanted to objectify the characters. This was a jab at how women used to be seen as property instead of individuals and the molds they were required to fit into.
Of the characters, Yasmine was my favorite. She wasn’t one of the four women who the story was actually about, but she was the one that Zumas made us feel the strongest connection too. Other than the math teacher, Yasmine (and her parents) were the only POC in the entire novel (that were specified). However, the few times the daughter, Mattie, mentioned her friend Yasmine there were so many social justice issues alluded at that Mattie was unable to understand growing up white in a predominantly white town. From my interpretation, it was Zumas’ way to showcase the divide between the “white feminism” she is primarily discussing in the novel and the struggle WOC, like Yasmine, had to endure to “not be anyone’s stereotype.” Personally, I wished instead of the blurbs from the biographer’s novel, the sections were divided by letters from Yasmine.
Overall, I gave Red Clocks4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads. The reason I didn’t give Red Clocks 5 stars had to deal with the interaction of the main characters. The biographer and the wife claimed to be “friends” but the whole novel was about how they envied each other to a point of loathing. Just about everyone HEAVILY judged the mender and only stopped when they needed something from her. Throughout the story, the “healthiest” interactions were between the biographer and the daughter; but even then the biographer was jealous of the daughter and contemplated stealing her baby. Other than that, I do believe Red Clocks lived up to its hype. I was hardly disappointed and when I got to the end of the novel, I found myself wishing there were another 200 pages to read. This novel would be best suited for those over the age of 15 but those over the age of 18 would get a lot more from this book.
She doesn’t want to skip the Math Academy.
(She kicks Nouri’s gothsickle ass at calculus.)
Or to push it out.
She doesn’t want to wonder; and she would.
The kid too – Why wasn’t I kept?
Was his mother too young? Too old? Too hot? Too Cold?
She doesn’t want him wondering, or herself wondering.
Are you mine?
And she doesn’t want to worry she’ll be found.
But she has a self. Why not use it?
–Red Clocks by Leni Zumas