By Leni Zumas
Five women. One question. What is a woman for?
In this ferociously imaginative novel, abortion is once again illegal in America, in-vitro fertilization is banned, and the Personhood Amendment grants rights of life, liberty, and property to every embryo. In a small Oregon fishing town, five very different women navigate these new barriers alongside age-old questions surrounding motherhood, identity, and freedom.
Ro, a single high-school teacher, is trying to have a baby on her own, while also writing a biography of Eivør, a little-known 19 th-century female polar explorer. Susan is a frustrated mother of two, trapped in a crumbling marriage. Mattie is the adopted daughter of doting parents and one of Ro’s best students, who finds herself pregnant with nowhere to turn. And Gin is the gifted, forest-dwelling herbalist, or “mender,” who brings all their fates together when she’s arrested and put on trial in a frenzied modern-day witch hunt.
Can you imagine a world where abortions, IVF and adoption (as a single parent) are illegal? Where women have to fling themselves down flights of stairs to miscarry, where capable, loving, maternal women who are single are banned from adopting, even if you are raped, not being able to have the choice of terminating your pregnancy. A world I certainly wouldn’t want to live in, a world which Leni Zumas has created in Red Clocks.
Red Clocks is based around the lives of 4 women and their everyday lives and struggles. A slow burner at first but once the women’s lives start to weave together the novel picks up and becomes very interesting. I had such empathy with all of the characters; Ro who is struggling to have a child, single alone and now banned from adopting, Mattie falling pregnant at 15 and not knowing where to turn, Susan the frustrated mother trapped in a loveless marriage and Gin wanting to innocently help women with ailments becoming arrested for a crime she did not commit. These women all had extraordinary choices to make and struggles to live with and I just kept thinking what would I do? What choices would I make if I were in their shoes? I like a novel that makes you think like this.
The novel is supposedly set in a dystopian future however compared to other dystopian novels I have read it felt very contemporary; no zombies, no end of the world just a change in the Government laws. I felt like it was more contemporary over dystopian as the laws the Government were actioning could possibly come true in the not so distant future. Leni Zumas herself has said that she drew the most frightening details of her story’s misogynistic world from “actual proposals” by men who are currently in control of our government. Scary stuff!!
What I found crazy in the book was the new law that comes in stating that single persons cannot even adopt anymore, making out that a single parent home is an unhappy unhealthy home for a child, which is totally and utterly bonkers!!! “On January fifteenth in less than three months – this law, also known as Every Child Needs Two, takes effect. Its mission: to restore dignity, strength and prosperity to American families. Unmarried persons will be legally prohibited from adopting children” Thus making the character Ro feel like she doesn’t fit into society and is worthless. I felt like the clock and the time theme going throughout the novel was the strongest with Ro. She was an older woman so her time to have a child was running out, now she only has 3 months as a single person to try and adopt, she even says as one point “Five Days, Two Months, Forty Two Years, She hates the calendar.”
Ro also writes lists in notebooks throughout the novel and on one she states:
“Married people live longer, healthier lives.
Do you think anyone actually believes that you’re happy on your own?”
Punishing herself for being a single woman, I guess a lot of women feel like this on a daily basis becoming jealous of those friends or family members who have loving partners, but it’s also not a crime to be happy on your own, to want to have a child on your own. I think Ro was my favourite character out of all of them, her struggle and determination to have a child was heartbreaking. Her one chance she gets to possibly have a child just slips through her fingers and I just wanted to scream WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!!!!!! This is your chance!!!!!
I didn’t just like Ro I loved all of the characters , Zuma’s writes beautifully and each woman has a different personality and struggle, I just wanted to reach out and help all of them giving them advice and making things better.
Zumas writes a provocative novel that is political, raises social and ethical debates and I loved it! The only part that let it down for me was the interwoven biography that Ro was writing about the Polar Explorer. I really didn’t feel like this brought anything to the novel at all. But other than that I really enjoyed reading it, you might be able to tell as my review seems a bit all over the place, I just had so much I wanted to say!
Have you read Red Clocks, how did this book make you feel? Did you love it or hate it? Thanks for reading Katie x