The Handmaid’s Tale: Do I like this book?

With the premiere of the HULU series based on the Margaret Atwood novel in full swing, I decided that I should read the book before starting the series.  I’m usually very interested in story about a near future dystopia so this piece of fiction seemed very intriguing.  As usual I read the synopsis on Wikipedia and all the hype around the show being very relevant to today’s world.  I was super excited about finishing the novel and diving into the series, which is annoyingly on HULU rather than Netflix.  (I like the option to binge if I want rather than wait a week in between episodes.)  Halfway through the novel I broke down and decided to watch the first episode which I thought was amazing and it gave me the push I needed to finish the novel in another sitting.

Without giving anything away for anyone who hasn’t read the book, I feel cheated.  Don’t get me wrong, the entire story was very interesting.  Hearing an account of the systematic decline of a democratic nation that now thinks its okay to subjugate women was eye-opening.  I can see the parallels to societies past and its possible future.  Seeing women turn against each other because of men, was saddening and I often found myself yelling out loud for them to help one another.

The part that was annoying for me is that there was no real explanation of why and how. How was the US government disbanded?  Who is in charge now?  The Commander was a high-ranking official, but an official in or for what?  Why weren’t women standing up for themselves?  Why is Canada always a safe haven for everything and everyone?  So many questions raised, and not a single answer given.

I suppose that’s the point.  We are hearing the story from Offred, who knows just about as much as we do and she’s learning at the same rate.  All she can offer us are memories of her previous life and the minutia of her everyday tribulations.  That is all that she has left, information is forbidden her.  Even when she is finally able to search for answers she only finds more questions and confusion.  Does this book have a sequel? I need a sequel because everything is up in the air.

I am now watching the series and hoping that it can give me a bit more back story and context to the drastic changes that seem to happen overnight.  A societal change of this magnitude formed itself in the shadows waiting for the opportune moment.  How did this happen and how do we fight back?  That is the story and lesson that needs explaining.

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