Why We Love It:
Margaret Atwood is at her best in this stunning novel about a crazy, dystopian world. The Heart Goes Last is a horrifying, funny and honest look at what humans will do to survive at any cost.
Stan and Charmaine are left homeless by an economic downtown in the near future. They roam the dangerous roads of America, living out of their car, avoiding robbery, gang rape, even murder, and scrounging a meagre living any way they can. When they see a television ad at the bar where Charmaine works, promising hope of a safe life in a controlled new society, Charmaine can’t resist the lure of soft, white towels and hot running water.
Once inside though, reality is not quite as wonderful as the TV images portrayed. Charmaine has a job ‘dealing with’ the unsavoury elements in the perfect world of Positron and its alternate world, Consilience. Stan’s job is to tend the chickens that help to feed the residents of this supposedly utopian society. One month they live in their neat suburban house and on alternate months they go into the Positron ‘prison’, a system that makes everything run smoothly, according to the propaganda.
Given what faced them on the outside, it’s all hunky dory until Charmaine meets her ‘alternate’ and, though formerly squeaky clean, she is drawn into an intriguing web of sex and lies, and everything starts to go wrong. She and Stan both find themselves dragged into a nightmare world involving the ‘cleansing’ of society’s unwanted elements, illicit organ trade, and the manufacture and trade of sex robots. They become pawns in a complex and crazy plan for rebellion by the increasingly subversive elements within the ranks of Positron’s governing class.
This is Margaret Atwood’s return to the dark, dystopian mood reminiscent of earlier works such as The Handmaid’s Tale and more recently the acclaimed Maddaddam trilogy that Atwood herself describes as ‘speculative fiction’. The Heart Goes Last is more darkly humorous than previous novels though, and it’s an altogether lighter look at the darker side of human nature and the potential for advancing technology to be put to harmful use. Despite the absurdity of some of the scenarios, they’re also frighteningly plausible, and despite the bleak subject matter, The Heart Goes Last is a funny, fast-paced book and a great summer read.
Margaret Atwood is the Canadian author of such acclaimed classics as The Edible Woman, Cat’s Eye, Alias Grace, and The Blind Assassin. Her work has won an impressive array of awards, including the Booker Prize for The Blind Assassin, an award for which she has been shortlisted five times. Readers can be truly thankful that Atwood’s imagination is as fertile and her writing as sharp as ever. The Heart Goes Last is another great novel from one of the greatest writers of our time.