When She Woke – Hillary Jordan

Published March 3, 2013 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Hannah Payne’s life has been devoted to church and family. But after she’s convicted of murder, she awakens in a new body to a nightmarish new life. She finds herself lying on a table in a bare room, covered only by a paper gown, with cameras broadcasting her every move to millions at home, for whom observing new Chromes–criminals whose skin color has been genetically altered to match the class of their crime–is a sinister form of entertainment. Hannah is a Red for the crime of murder. The victim, says the State of Texas, was her unborn child, and Hannah is determined to protect the identity of the father, a public figure with whom she shared a fierce and forbidden love.A powerful reimagining of “The Scarlet Letter,” “When She Woke” is a timely fable about a stigmatized woman struggling to navigate an America of the not-too-distant future, where the line between church and state has been eradicated, and convicted felons are no longer imprisoned and rehabilitated but chromed and released back into the population to survive as best they can. In seeking a path to safety in an alien and hostile world, Hannah unknowingly embarks on a journey of self-discovery that forces her to question the values she once held true and the righteousness of a country that politicizes faith and love.

What did I think?:

This book has been described as a re-telling of “The Scarlet Letter.” I haven’t read that novel yet so can’t really comment on that side of things, but I felt the beginning of this book had such potential. It felt a little Margaret Atwoody, and I loved the descriptions of Hannah in the prison, and the telling of the events that put her there. So….Hannah gets out of the prison but is doomed to spend the rest of her sentence as a Chrome, painted red, announcing to the world that she is a murderess. This part was also intriguing, and her stay in the religious house under the care of the devout and slightly creepy Reverend and Mrs Henley was very readable.

Then, all of a sudden, I reached the second half of the novel. And to be perfectly honest, it felt like I was reading a different book! Everything seemed to be in place for a terrific story…. the dystopian future, the nature of Chroming, the religious views, the relationship between Hannah and her family, etc. and none of these story-lines were cemented or followed through. Instead, we got a woman’s rather strange journey, and a completely unnecessary and pointless sexual encounter in my opinion.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably not.

Star rating (out of 5):

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