In a dystopian future when few babies are born and an oppressive regime has taken power, fertile women are pressed into service as handmaidens.
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I first read this book as a young teenager and it blew my mind. In addition to this being my first dystopian read, it was one of my first exposures to a book that was subversive, political, and feminist. This is the story of Offred, a woman who not so long ago was a wife, mother, and independent woman. Now she is a handmaiden, separated from her family and pressed into service for her fertility. Each month, she must submit to the Commander in hopes of becoming pregnant. This is a frightening tale of a society where women are fully oppressed and valued for little else than their ability to procreate–scarily prescient in today’s political climate. This book remains a favorite, but it’s been years since I read it and I’m looking forward to reading it again.
Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now…