Red Clocks
Five women. One question. What is a woman for?In this ferociously imaginative novel, abortion is once again illegal in America, in-vitro fertilization is banned, and the Personhood Amendment grants rights of life, liberty, and property to every embryo. In a small Oregon fishing town, five very different women navigate these new barriers alongside age-old questions surrounding motherhood, identity, and freedom.Ro, a single high-school teacher, is trying to have a baby on her own, while also writing a biography of Eivør, a little-known 19th-century female polar explorer. Susan is a frustrated mother of two, trapped in a crumbling marriage. Mattie is the adopted daughter of doting parents and one of Ro's best students, who finds herself pregnant with nowhere to turn. And Gin is the gifted, forest-dwelling homeopath, or "mender," who brings all their fates together when she's arrested and put on trial in a frenzied modern-day witch hunt.

Red Clocks Details

TitleRed Clocks
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJan 16th, 2018
PublisherLittle, Brown and Company
ISBN-139780316434812
Rating
GenreFiction, Science Fiction, Feminism, Dystopia

Red Clocks Review

  • Emily May
    January 1, 1970
    I guess we can probably expect more of these weird feminist(?) dystopias in the wake of The Handmaid's Tale's Hulu series. Between this and the superhero-movie-turned-superhero-book trend, you can pretty much predict the new book trends based on what's popular on the big and small screens.Here, Zumas imagines a United States where the Personhood Amendment gives rights to unborn embryos, outlawing abortion and IVF (because said embryos cannot give consent). The Canadian government assist by erect I guess we can probably expect more of these weird feminist(?) dystopias in the wake of The Handmaid's Tale's Hulu series. Between this and the superhero-movie-turned-superhero-book trend, you can pretty much predict the new book trends based on what's popular on the big and small screens.Here, Zumas imagines a United States where the Personhood Amendment gives rights to unborn embryos, outlawing abortion and IVF (because said embryos cannot give consent). The Canadian government assist by erecting a figurative "Pink Wall" across the U.S.-Canadian border, meaning that they will capture and return any woman suspected of crossing the border for an abortion or IVF.It sounded fascinating to me. Given the political climate in the U.S. and the fervor of pro-life advocates, it is not a particularly implausible scenario. But, unfortunately, the amount of "literary" frills in Red Clocks made it almost impossible to enjoy (maybe that isn't the right word, but you know what I'm saying). It is such a painfully cerebral read, and it feels to me like a book of this kind has the greatest impact when you are pulled deep into the lives and horrors of the characters, not viewing them through a distant lens. Red Clocks would be a horror story for many women, including myself, and yet I felt so emotionally-distanced from the story and all four (or you could say five) perspectives.I have to assume the emotional distance is intentional. Zumas refers to the four main characters as "The Biographer" (Ro), "The Wife" (Susan), "The Daughter" (Mattie) and "The Mender" (Gin), with the fifth perspective being that of fictional explorer, Eivør Minervudottir, who "The Biographer" is writing a book about.Each of the main four are dealing with womanhood issues that are threatened by the new laws. Ro's perspective is easily the most palatable, though we still have to sit through a vaginal exam that unfolds like this: On a scale of one to ten, with ten being the shrill funk of an elderly cheese and one being no odor at all, how would he rank the smell of the biographer's vagina? How does it compare with the other vaginas barreling through this exam room, day in, day out, years of vaginas, a crowd of vulvic ghosts? Plenty of women don't shower beforehand, or are battling a yeast, or just happen naturally to stink in the nethers. Kalbfleisch has sniffed some ripe tangs in his time. Yum. Ro is trying desperately to conceive before a new law is introduced banning single parent families. Susan is something of a cliche depressed housewife, struggling with the dissatisfaction of staying home. Mattie is a teenager, pregnant, and unsure of what to do. Gin provides herbal remedies for abortion, amongst other things, and is the modern-day equivalent of a witch under the new amendment.Zumas experiments with different styles that change as we jump from one character to another. The narrative is fractured and messy - definitely more about experimental writing than telling a compelling and/or important story. I appreciate that this will be better suited to the kind of reader I am not.Overall, I felt the book was more concept and writing than characters and narrative structure. It really depends on what you're looking for, but I would personally expect a book with this intriguing a premise to contain a strong emotional pull and more of a plot. Oh well. I'm sure similar novels will be on the way.Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube
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  • Lotte
    January 1, 1970
    4.25/5.Red Clocks can be described as a dystopian novel, but it feels entirely contemporary. Instead of creating a far-off dystopian society, Leni Zumas picks up on trends in our current political climate and thinks them through. What are the consequences of making abortion illegal in the US? How does a woman trying to have a baby on her own navigate a world in which in vitro fertilization is banned and only married couples are allowed to adopt? Where do larger concepts of woman- and motherhood 4.25/5.Red Clocks can be described as a dystopian novel, but it feels entirely contemporary. Instead of creating a far-off dystopian society, Leni Zumas picks up on trends in our current political climate and thinks them through. What are the consequences of making abortion illegal in the US? How does a woman trying to have a baby on her own navigate a world in which in vitro fertilization is banned and only married couples are allowed to adopt? Where do larger concepts of woman- and motherhood come into play when discussing women's health?The author asks all these big questions in the grand scheme of things, while also maintaining a certain closeness to its four (arguably, five) main characters. She tells the story of multiple, very different women and weaves all these different narratives together beautifully. Another recent release that this book is destined to be compared to is The Power by Naomi Alderman, which I also read this year and really enjoyed, but which for me lacked a sort of emotional intimacy to its characters. Red Clocks however, reads like both a deeply intimate and emotional character study and a highly complex portrait of a near-future society. It's written incredibly lyrically and even though it's not necessarily a light read, I really enjoyed my time reading this! --- Thank you to Little, Brown for sending me an advanced reader's copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own though (obviously!).
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  • Lolly K Dandeneau
    January 1, 1970
    via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/“Everyone wants charms, but thirty-two years on earth have convinced the mender charms are purely for show.”In this novel, abortion is illegal, in-vitro fertilization is banned and soon single people won’t be allowed to adopt. The Personhood Ammendment grants rights to embryos (that cannot possibly give permission to be born) and desperate women seek help, anywhere they can. For some, it is in the hands of the mender (Gin). Gin, the forest dwell via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/“Everyone wants charms, but thirty-two years on earth have convinced the mender charms are purely for show.”In this novel, abortion is illegal, in-vitro fertilization is banned and soon single people won’t be allowed to adopt. The Personhood Ammendment grants rights to embryos (that cannot possibly give permission to be born) and desperate women seek help, anywhere they can. For some, it is in the hands of the mender (Gin). Gin, the forest dwelling healer, understands roots and herbs, how women used nature for centuries for healing and ridding themselves of unwanted ‘problems’. But there is a witch hunt built on lies, and it’s illegal to help women end their pregnancies. Is it also illegal to save women from brutal abuse?Ro is a high school teacher, single and desperate to have a child of her own. The ideal partner hasn’t materialized, and pretty soon her options will run out as it will no longer be legal for her, as a would be single mother, to have a child legally. She is struggling too with fertility, trying to get pregnant before the laws change. Gin may be able to help her with her fertility or hormones or something, certainly the doctor she’s been seeing for treatment isn’t doing such a hot job! Her friends ( Didier and Susan) live the high life, a beautiful big home (Ro doesn’t envy them that), children but they are convinced Ro needs a partner. They are an example, children need both parents, and who will Ro turn to when she needs help, child-rearing can be rough! But for Susan, it may well be time for she and Didier to be ‘single’ again, there is a fault line in their marriage that she isn’t sure she can ignore any longer. Susan is disenchanted with her life, numb with the demands being a mother and wife make on her. Mattie is a young high school student, adopted by wonderful parents who certainly would not be proud to discover their cherished daughter is pregnant. Her boyfriend is useless, and she is desperate for a solution, her last resort may be in the hands of the odd witch, Gin. There is so much more to Gin than Mattie understands, and they may be more alike than she could have ever guessed. But her plan to save herself may come undone when Gin is arrested, and the fates of the women are tied. Gin tries to protect another woman, one who may well have turned on her with bitter lies. Everything is in chaos when the mender is locked up, who will the women turn to now? Maybe each-other.Gin (the mender) is my favorite character. I can’t help it, I fancy stories about healers, forest dwellers, heck- throw some mountain fiction my way and I am happy. Before the sterilization of medicine, women turned to women for healing, not just for birthing or ending pregnancies but also for herbs/root medicine to treat illnesses (feminine and otherwise). People will debate this until they are blue, because each feels their truth is all that matters. But this is a provocative novel, because it raises a lot of questions that can lead to a healthy debate, and likely some unhealthy ones too. What happens when women have nowhere to turn? It’s not just about physical health, it’s spiritual too. You cannot separate the two. It’s interesting, Ro is desperate to be a mother, while young Mattie would give anything not to be and Susan is drained by it all.This doesn’t just touch on abortion, but in Ro (who is writing a biography of Eivør, a little-known 19th-century female polar explorer) it expresses the limits society’s laws on women’s health would put on so many lives. Ro, with the clock ticking, may never know motherhood. Where would we put all the young criminals, that seek to end unwanted pregnancies, if they were lucky enough to survive ending them? As Ro gives snippets of the explorer’s life, it’s easy to see how much she admires her bravery. “Eivør Minervudottir did things she wasn’t supposed to. Took plunges.” Ro is opposed to the traditional way of things, and hates that you must have romantic companionship to be seen as whole, to be approved for motherhood. The new laws as they stand don’t leave room for those who shirk the traditional family setting. It’s strange that women in this novel are in some ways as limited now as they were in Eivør’s time. There is a disjointed feel to the novel in the first chapter or so, but it flows and comes together if you stick with it. I was curious about the novel but didn’t think I would enjoy it nearly as much as I did. Again, it’s the mender who drew me in deeply but each character’s perception is vital to the novel. It’s not simply about the freedom of choices, it’s also about how women are hemmed in, limited. Told in alternating views, Mattie shares the tormented mind of a young pregnant teenager hunting for a solution. Ro expresses the hopelessness of a grown woman who simply wants to be a mother without all the trimmings of a traditional family. Susan exposes the stresses of a frazzled, harried life of a mother and wife who no longer has much faith in her husband, and longs to free herself. Gin is the mender who just wants to live her life without being harassed, healing women who need her and maybe herself included.A surprising gem of a forth-coming novel.This will be published in January, add it to your reading pile! I will revisit it when it’s released.Publication Date: January 16, 2018Little, Brown and CompanyLee Boudreaux Books
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  • Claire Fuller
    January 1, 1970
    Really enjoyable and thought-provoking read about five women in a version of the United States where abortion and IVF are banned, and all adoptions must be by couples (which doesn't seem so far from reality). The story ticked over quickly, and I found the structure very easy to get into (many short sections - some of which are about an Icelandic explorer). All of them find the courage to stand up for what they want, rather than agreeing to what they are told they should want.
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  • Kirsten
    January 1, 1970
    this book wrecked me. i wanted to read it over again immediately.
  • Hanna
    January 1, 1970
    I've never quite understood what it meant for someone's writing to be "lyrical" and then I picked up an ARC of Red Clocks and suddenly knew. Leni Zumas tells the stories of five different women (4 primarily) with beautiful prose. We follow the trials of a young girl seeking an abortion in a world where abortion is illegal & dangerous, a woman on the quest to have children when in vitro fertilization is illegal & folks aren't allowed to adopt without a spouse/partner, a woman in a dead en I've never quite understood what it meant for someone's writing to be "lyrical" and then I picked up an ARC of Red Clocks and suddenly knew. Leni Zumas tells the stories of five different women (4 primarily) with beautiful prose. We follow the trials of a young girl seeking an abortion in a world where abortion is illegal & dangerous, a woman on the quest to have children when in vitro fertilization is illegal & folks aren't allowed to adopt without a spouse/partner, a woman in a dead end marriage dying to escape from her husband & children, and a woman considered a witch by most, who helps provide homeopathic reproductive healthcare, including illegal abortions, for women. Zumas beautifully wove these stories together, gave each individual a strong & unique voice, while also maintaining suspended disbelief. These characters felt real and this world felt possible. I suspect this will be one of the best books published in 2018.
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  • Chelsea Bieker
    January 1, 1970
    This book. Read this book. Not only is it a terrifying glimpse of our current and future political times (women's reproductive rights completely taken away) it's a layered, intense portrayal of women and the demands society places on them. But it's also the most beautiful innovative writing you could hope to read, every line, every description a surprise. I have loved Zumas' other works as well, and this is no exception. I read it in a single sitting and the way the different perspectives become This book. Read this book. Not only is it a terrifying glimpse of our current and future political times (women's reproductive rights completely taken away) it's a layered, intense portrayal of women and the demands society places on them. But it's also the most beautiful innovative writing you could hope to read, every line, every description a surprise. I have loved Zumas' other works as well, and this is no exception. I read it in a single sitting and the way the different perspectives become entangled is masterful, the pace fast and furious. The dialogue, hilariously funny. It's the best book I've read in a very long time.
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  • Cynthia Shannon
    January 1, 1970
    This book really resonated on so many levels.
  • Megan Tristao
    January 1, 1970
    Really more of a 3.5, but I'm rounding up to give this book the benefit of the doubt as I've been in a bit of a reading slump. It took me longer than it should have to finish this book, but I did enjoy Zumas' descriptive writing and characterization. Overall, I didn't feel the "oompf" from this book that I probably should have. I do anticipate this will be a popular title in 2018 given current debates around reproductive rights. I also thought Eivor's sections were a bit jarring at first, but by Really more of a 3.5, but I'm rounding up to give this book the benefit of the doubt as I've been in a bit of a reading slump. It took me longer than it should have to finish this book, but I did enjoy Zumas' descriptive writing and characterization. Overall, I didn't feel the "oompf" from this book that I probably should have. I do anticipate this will be a popular title in 2018 given current debates around reproductive rights. I also thought Eivor's sections were a bit jarring at first, but by the end of the book, I thought her story was an appropriate fit.
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  • Toni
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you to A Likely Story Book Store for the ARC of Red Clocks in exchange for a review.I actually gave this 3.5 stars but rounded it up. I don't usually do that but..........it was appropriate in this case.I never in a million years believed that I would enjoy this novel (a 3 day read) and it may be hard to explain why. Chapter 1 was very confusing so the story didn't grab me at first nor did I get warm fuzzies as to what was to come. Zumas had the ODDEST and STRANGEST of writing styles and a Thank you to A Likely Story Book Store for the ARC of Red Clocks in exchange for a review.I actually gave this 3.5 stars but rounded it up. I don't usually do that but..........it was appropriate in this case.I never in a million years believed that I would enjoy this novel (a 3 day read) and it may be hard to explain why. Chapter 1 was very confusing so the story didn't grab me at first nor did I get warm fuzzies as to what was to come. Zumas had the ODDEST and STRANGEST of writing styles and as I read on I was hoping it was her way of introducing characters and set the scene/story and all come together at some point. ODD-ness continued in her descriptions, characters (had titles, not names), (the names did come into play later in the story but by then I had adapted to knowing them by their titles), and a certain amount of crudeness and vulgarity in several of the characters language which seemed to be quite normal to them. (There was a redundant amount of notice to pubic hair -sorry, but true, that could have disappeared without any notice to the reader.) I found it hard to get a time frame to the story. It took a long time to get to know the characters - who they were and what they were like. Throughout the story, I didn't get the purpose of the explorer in the story but by page 300 I finally understood her place in the book. (I would add a comment here but I am trying to write this review without spoilers.) All of the above statements are why I couldn't give this book more than 3.5 stars, although I did round it up. I was torn between the stars this time!Set in a time when new laws stated that abortion is illegal, IVF is banned and only two parent households can adopt plus a fetus has status upon conception, five characters come into play in this story, each with their own story but each owning a piece of each others life. The age old issue of abortion, Roe vs. Wade, women's choice and what real role women play in society comes into view in this novel.Once you get used to the odd ball writing style of this book, a story (well thought out) emerges. I began to learn who the characters were and how they related to each other - it starts to make sense but you have to be into it 80-100 pages for that to happen. It's not a book I would have picked up on my own. The story is unveiled slowly, about real people with real needs dealing with the new laws concerning fetuses. An interesting story about an age old issue, and no matter what side you are on, you can see the complications of the issues in the book. Considering that I am pro-life, pro-choice (I know - a real oxymoron, eh?!) I didn't find the story offensive in any way. I felt empathy with many of the characters as they all had struggles to bear. I found myself rooting for certain characters and was glad of some outcomes and sad for others. I'm certain that this book isn't for everyone. Between the writing style and the controversy of the subject matter, it may be a hard book to place. But I'm glad that I read it!My favorite (or UN-favorite) quote in the story - "These little animals (referring to children) were hatched by the wife, are being fed and cleaned and sheltered and loved by the wife, on their way to becoming persons in their own right. The wife made persons. No need to otherwise justify what she is doing on the plantet." WHOA!!! That kind of sets the theme for the book I guess and it was a disturbing quote to say the least.All in all, I am still surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. I would add it to my recommended list of books to my friends. It certainly is different and in some ways challenging but was a very good read for me. Just goes to show how one person might love a book that someone else dis-loves!
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