Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Algonquin Books. Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.
I first introduced you to Hillary Jordan's When She Woke in June when I wrote about the hot book club picks session at this year's BookExpo America (BEA). I still stand behind my opinion that When She Woke will be discussed by book clubs around the world.
Here's the publisher's summary:
Hannah Payne’s life has been devoted to church and family, but after her arrest, she awakens to a nightmare: she is 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 new and sinister form of entertainment. Hannah is a Red; her crime is murder. The victim, according to 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’s shared a fierce and forbidden love.There is so much more about this novel than the obvious connections to both The Scarlet Letter and The Handmaid's Tale. I read it as a kind of feminist coming-of-age story and a tale about the importance of secular education and access to information. I also took Hannah as both an individual and as an Everywoman of her time. In addition, there is a strong reminder of how easy it is to judge others until we find ourselves in their situation.
When She Woke is a fable about a stigmatized woman struggling to navigate an America of a 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 path of self-discovery that forces her to question the values she once held true and the righteousness of a country that politicizes faith.
Hannah grew up with only one viewpoint, that of her Evangelical parents and school. She lived in a city and held a job, but her eyes had been clouded by her upbringing. Thus, until she became a Red, she had only limited experience with personal choice and free will. As she says herself, her transformation allowed her, "for the first time in her life, to really pay attention" to others and to the world around her. Ironically, her arrest and punishment brings her an independence she never expected. As an outsider to everything America and religious, she begins to trust her own instincts and can at last determine where she stands in relationship to the god and men (and women) who controlled her life for twenty-six years.
Book clubs will talk about politics, religion, feminism, abortion, sexual relationships, marriage, the future of America and the world, and the many implications of giving up our privacy to the latest technology. Be sure to pour a lot of wine.
Here are some other thoughts (click on the links for the full reviews):
- Alaskan Book Cafe: "I can hear both the praise and the slams in my head as I write this. I hope you will choose to read it and talk about it. The issues it brings up are important ones that we are dealing with now."
- S. Krishna's Books: "I believe its message is that inquisitiveness, curiosity, that desire to learn, are so important to who we are. When our freedom to question, to doubt, is taken from us, we become lesser beings."
- The Novel World: "I’ve already informed my bookclub that this will be our October book choice. I’m very eager to hear their points of view about the book. There are so many talking points in this novel, it has endless possibilities."
Algonquin Books is a featured imprint on Beth Fish Reads. For more information about the imprint, please read Executive Editor Chuck Adams's introductory letter, posted here on January 7, 2011.