07 October 2011

Imprint Friday: When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

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.

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.
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.

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."
When She Woke was an Indie Next pick for October 2011. To learn more about Hillary Jordan, see her website or blog.

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.

When She Woke at Powell's
When She Woke at Book Depository
These links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by Workman / Algonquin Books, October 4, 2011
ISBN-13: 9781565126299


Julie P. 10/7/11, 6:53 AM  

Sounds like a perfect book club pick!

Swapna 10/7/11, 8:58 AM  

"Be sure to pour lots of wine" - haha! So true! This is definitely a multi-glass book.

I thought WHEN SHE WOKE was incredibly thought provoking, and I agree it's more than just retellings of the novels it's compared to. Thanks for quoting from my review!!

bermudaonion 10/7/11, 9:25 AM  

Jordan spoke at SIBA and was very captivating. I can't wait to read the book!

Lenore Appelhans 10/7/11, 9:25 AM  

It would definitely make for a great discussion - especially if you have some more conservative views in the group.

Pam 10/7/11, 11:04 AM  

I loved this book so much. It really would be a great discussion book.

reviewsbylola 10/7/11, 11:12 AM  

I may need to suggest this one to my book club. I haven't read it yet but I imagine that it would elicit a great dicussion!

Anita 10/7/11, 11:20 AM  

I'm looking forward to reading this one.

softdrink 10/7/11, 11:47 AM  

I would pitch this to my bookclub...but there are quite a few people who never read the book. Meaningful discussion is hard when 1/2 the group never reads it!

Sandy Nawrot 10/7/11, 12:58 PM  

She WAS very cool when she spoke at SIBA. A very dry sense of humor! And HA, my Heathrow Book Club totally wouldn't read this. The unofficial "leader" doesn't want anything political or controversial (didn't want us to read The Handmaid's Tale) so this one would be out. Just pisses me off somedays. Anyway, I shall be reading it and loving it.

Jenners 10/7/11, 1:21 PM  

I keep hemming and hawing about whether I want to read this book or not. Maybe if I had a book club to discuss it with!

Stacy at A Novel Source 10/7/11, 1:28 PM  

this definitely sounds like one i want my book club to read...so many issues to talk about!

Zibilee 10/7/11, 2:33 PM  

One of the most interesting things about this book to me is the amount of issues it tackles while still apparently maintaining suspense and intrigue. It was very cool getting the chance to hear Jordan speak. She was really intelligent and outspoken, and it made me really eager to try the book for myself. I am glad that you enjoyed it. I think it's going to be a very good read for me.

Nise' 10/7/11, 6:26 PM  

I am looking forward to reading this book. I need to get a book club that consistently stays together.

Heather 10/8/11, 8:23 AM  

Add me to the "I loved it" list. I agree, I think it would make for some very interesting conversations.

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks 10/8/11, 8:40 AM  

"Be sure to pour a lot of wine" is sage advice - discussions could (and should) last hours!

Karen White 10/8/11, 11:51 AM  

I'm not quite finished - at first I couldn't put it down, but now I don't want it to end so I am trying to pace myself! But this is definitely one of my favorite reads of the year. Don't hesitate to read this book - and if your book club won't do it (or you don't have a local one, like me) go to someplace like goodreads and talk about it! Such a provocative take on our world right now and where we might be heading.

Darlene 10/9/11, 5:06 PM  

I just picked up the audio for this one and can't wait to listen to it!

Robin McCormack 10/9/11, 11:39 PM  

Sounds like my kind of book. Adding it to my wishlist until decide whether want ebook or audio.

Buried In Print 10/17/11, 4:50 PM  

I'm so stupidly excited about this book -- which I have sitting about six inches from me right now -- that I'm almost afraid to read it. You know how that is? When you've been wanting to read something so badly that you start to be afraid that it will disappoint and begin to avoid it instead? But I won't let that happen: I've been waiting too long for this one!

Michelle 10/29/11, 6:14 PM  

I've heard that this is a good one! I've not had the opportunity to read it and don't know that I will but it sounds like most everyone who's read it enjoyed it. Glad you thought it was worthwhile as well.

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