In an alternative reality, Roe v. Wade has been overturned and women can no longer legally have abortions, adopt into single parent households, or artificially have children. Four women live in this world and bear the consequences.
This book has been experiencing some MAJOR hype lately so, naturally, I fell prey and read it immediately. The concept of Red Clocks is deeply intriguing and very timely-- what happens if women no longer have control over their bodies in the eyes of the law? Zumas's characters live this reality. Mattie, an adopted teen who finds herself making decisions about an unwanted pregnancy, alongside her favorite teacher Ro, a high school instructor pursuing motherhood in an increasingly policed and sexist bureaucracy while she researches the main character in her unfinished book, a polar explorer named Eivør Minervudottir, a woman who experiences similar sexism. In the same town we also read about Susan, a mother of two who feels unable to leave her marriage, and Gin Perceval, "the mender," who is in the midst of a modern-day witch trial in which she is accused of medical malpractice for attempting to end a pregnancy.
Immediately upon picking up Red Clocks, a reader will notice Zumas’s highly stylized writing. It took me about 70 pages to really see eye to eye with the author, meet her in the middle with the way she writes, and get into the characters and their stories. The style is detached, taking a third person narrative track and as a result is more challenging than your typical piece of fiction. Each character is described with a distinct tag such as "the mender," "the biographer," and "the daughter." This naming style speaks to the detachment from personhood that is necessary to enact the laws being enforced in the dystopian setting. Though I thought it was heavy-handed at times, by the end, I had come to appreciate the effect, considering the extremely emotional ties we have to the subject of women's bodies and the choice (or lack there-of) of procreation.
Aside from the writing style, I was impressed by the many different angles the author took to show how a law that restricted women in this way would have widespread consequences. I underlined a lot of very relevant quotes and even took some notes as I processed. Zumas has a great talent for very subtle weaving of all our characters and it is fun to pick up on her little hints. However, I often thought the sections with our polar explorer, Eivør, were too short for me to remember and I only cared about her tale at the very end.
Overall? This was a really good and extremely timely read about the havoc of overturning Roe v. Wade and restricting women's bodies. Prepare for an unusual writing style!