The Handmaid’s Tale

Author: Margaret Atwood

Type: Fiction, novel

Published: 1985

I read it: December 2014


I found my copy in a used book store. On the cover is a sticker that says WITHDRAWN. What does that mean? Who would care? Inside are stamps from a public library in Wisconsin, listing due dates from May 1988 to January 2000. It’s a large print book; you don’t have to squint to read it. A penciled “3” on the title page shows how much I paid for it.

This book is a historical document from the recent past. It feels much older and much more modern. The defining work in speculative fiction, it refracts our society to show what may become. The unnamed (or renamed) character wonders to herself:

Is that how we lived, then? But we lived as usual. Everyone does, most of the time. Whatever is going on is as usual. Even this is as usual, now.

The story warms and terrifies. It infamously focuses on the subjugation of women, yet runs further and deeper. And it’s not all make-believe. It’s the Patriot Act and Islamic regimes. It’s threats of sexual violence in the comments sections. It’s humanity in the throes of its adolescence.

This is the book we shoot into space as a testament to how we rose, how we fell.

One thought on “The Handmaid’s Tale

  1. Odd that it reminded you of the Patriot Act with the publication date. ‘Withdrawn’ means withdrawn from circulation at a public library.

    Happy reading!

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