The Heart Goes Last
Nan A. Talese, an imprint of Doubleday, 2015
From the dust jacket: “Stan and Charmaine are a married couple trying to stay afloat in the midst of an economic and social collapse. Job loss has forced them to live in their car, leaving them vulnerable to roving gangs. They desperately need to turn their situation around—and fast. The Positron Project in the town of Consilience seems to be the answer to their prayers. No one is unemployed and everyone gets a comfortable, clean house to live in . . . for six months out of the year. On alternating months, residents of Consilience must leave their homes and function as inmates in the Positron prison system. Once their month of service in the prison is completed, they can return to their “civilian” homes.
“At first, this doesn’t seem like too much of a sacrifice to make in order to have a roof over one’s head and food to eat. But when Charmaine becomes romantically involved with the man who lives in their house during the months when she and Stan are in the prison, a series of troubling events unfolds, putting Stan’s life in danger. With each passing day, Positron looks less like a prayer answered and more like a chilling prophecy fulfilled.”
Margaret Atwood is a favorite author of mine and this book, The Heart Goes Last reminds me why –an original story, a wry sense of humor and an ability to just suck you into the lives of her characters. Additionally, I tend to think about her books long after I’ve finished read them, and again, this one is no exception: several days have passed between finishing the book and writing this review.
The depiction of life outside the gated town is frightening and an all-too real possibility for our country. In stark contrast, life inside of Consilience is a utopia, at least that’s what it seems like on the surface. But humans, being the contrary creatures you are, know instinctively how to mess up something good and twist it into some really bad stuff. Stan and Charmaine are unwitting – and unwilling — participants in a dangerous game between the heads of the Positron Project and Charmaine, particularly, is required to do a task that no one should ever be asked to do. On the surface women are treated as equals and respected but the undercurrent is that women are objectified and only useful for satisfying men’s desires. The lengths that some men go to in order to get what they want is very scary and really creepy.
I read one review that there was a lot of sex in the book so I braced myself for the worst – but instead, there’s a lot of talk about sex and a few sexual encounters but nothing graphic. There’s talk of violence, but it takes place off stage and is not graphic. The f-bomb is used infrequently and the only thing I read that made me cringe was a very brief conversation about children and sex. If I were to give this book a movie-style rating, it would be an “R”; however, in today’s society of almost-anything-goes the rating would more likely be “PG-13.”
Rating 4 paws out of 5 because it is thought-provoking and an original Margaret Atwood!