“The Heart Goes Last” by Margaret Atwood (2015)
Genre: Adult, Fiction, Sci-fi, Dystopian
Page Length: 308 pages (hardcover edition)
Living in their car, surviving on tips, Charmaine and Stan are in a desperate state. So, when they see an advertisement for Consilience, a ‘social experiment’ offering stable jobs and a home of their own, they sign up immediately. All they have to do in return for suburban paradise is give up their freedom every second month – swapping their home for a prison cell. At first, all is well. But then, unknown to each other, Stan and Charmaine develop passionate obsessions with their ‘Alternates,’ the couple that occupy their house when they are in prison. Soon the pressures of conformity, mistrust, guilt and sexual desire begin to take over. (description from Goodreads)
First of all, wow! This book was just wow!
The Heart Goes Last is an interesting take on a dystopian world in which the theme focuses on a social experiment of a “ideal life” separate from corruption and crime. Charmaine and Stan, our main protagonists, are a married couple who seek out Positron as a golden opportunity from their mundane live and bankrupt situation.
Soon the two quickly realize all is not as it seems in Positron, they grow tired of the sterilized life that is force-fed to them. They start to notice that something sinister is going on underneath the surface. How does Positron run so smoothly and what is happening beyond its walls?
The characters for this novel were well written and very intriguing. Charmaine forces herself to be an optimistic cheerleader even though she is deeply depressed at how their life has taken a downturn. She thinks her marriage is loveless and she constantly seeks affection from Stan.
Stan, on the other hand, struggles to be the provider/protector for Charmaine and him. He is downtrodden on his luck and feels that they’ll never find a real home and continue to live in their car. He also desires more of a spark in his marriage and for Charmaine to express how she really feels instead of just lying all the time.
Charmaine and Stan’s unhappiness leads them to seek others for affection, but soon the tables are turned as they discover Positron’s nasty secrets as well as the secrets they try to hide from each other. Instead of fixing their marriage, their new “happy-go-lucky” puts an even greater strain on their relationship. I would go into detail about this, but it would give most of the plot away and I like to keep my reviews spoiler free (for the most part).
Overall, I loved this novel! It was a thrilling, page-turner that started out slow, but once it built into the main action of the novel I couldn’t put it down. This is my first novel by Atwood and I’ve heard so many good things about most of her novels so I decided to give this a try. It was not disappointed and I found it really interesting the way Atwood dissects human relationships in the novel. I look forward to reading more of Atwood’s books.
A suspenseful and exciting dystopian novel that shows life isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence.