in Books, Reviews

The Heart Goes Last (2015) – Margaret Atwood

heart goes last

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

The Heart Goes Last

by Margaret Atwood

After a major economic collapse Charmaine and Stan are living in their car and trying to make ends meet. They are living in a lawless society constantly on edge. They find an opportunity to live within a crime-less utopia. The catch is that this utopia is a social experiment. They live one month in a regular community doing regular jobs and then the next month they alternate with another couple and live in a prison. They have made both circumstances as posh and attractive as possible to attract folks to sign up. Each individual has one month in the town called Consilience and one month in prison a called Positron doing a separate job. Stan and Charmaine are so happy to be rid of their past lives. They immediately sign up to this experiment where everything is monitored and you can’t get out.

If I recall correctly, this is my first Margaret Atwood book and I’m not sure if I’m as sold on her writing as many others have been. However, I’m willing to give Atwood another chance. Personally, I had a similar experience reading this as I did reading Station Eleven earlier this year. It was the same kind of engrossment I get with many science fiction or thriller type novels. It’s hard to put down, but at the same time its hard to pinpoint why you even want to continue reading beyond the fact that you want to see where the story ends. The characters are not the most interesting and the plot can seem to be very predictable or should I say formulaic. That is not to say there weren’t several plot twists and very interesting situations for the characters to face. However, in the end, this felt just like an adult version of a popular teen series. The whole thing feels like it could be made into a blockbuster movie franchise.

Indeed there was also a lot to really like about the book. The premise was very intriguing and made me pick up the book in the first place. Yet, I wish Atwood would have gone further into the implications of such a society. That expectation kept increasing in spurts throughout the novel. Atwood would bring to the forefront elements such as sexual desire, social control, organ harvesting, technology and free will. Maybe I was expecting more social commentary, but again maybe these elements are meant for the reader to struggle through themselves and any message is left ambiguous. As a well respected literary icon, I can see glimpses of Atwood’s writing where she definitely deserves such praise. In the end I’m recommending this book as a fun read. However, if you’re interested in something more meaty, I suggest you look elsewhere.

Stray Observations:

  • The economic collapse is only a small part of the book. However, I was very much intrigued by the world that begins this book.
  • We barely see what other citizens of Consilience/Positron were experiencing.
  • I think Atwood does a great job capturing very unique settings in portraying a 50s style suburb or a futuristic Las Vegas.
  • Jocelyn is a very interesting character. I just wish she was more fleshed out. She felt so mysterious and where her character ended up at the end didn’t seem at all satisfying.
  • It seemed very convenient that Stan’s brother Connor was there. He was introduced at the beginning of the book and then later comes back for this convenient rescue.
  • I was fairly disturbed that these characters seemed so willing to forego free will at the end of this book.

Rating: 2.5/5. A fun read, but not much more.

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