A dystopian future retelling of The Scarlet Letter
, When She Woke
had me hooked from the start. Hannah Payne has been "chromed"—or colored—red for her crime: abortion. This dystopian world is one in which religion has undergone a resurgence, and it now dominates politics in the United States. Those who commit crimes are no longer imprisoned or put to death for their actions; they are marked and released to fend for themselves in a society rife with prejudice and moral judgements. Like Hester Prynne, Hannah will not name the celebrity figurehead who has fathered her unborn child, and this Scarlet
thread carries throughout the book—but there's more, much more at work here. Hillary Jordan has created an imaginative and yet fathomable landscape of a society that's progressed so poorly it's actually regressed, and thus our journey with Hannah is one that addresses many themes: politics, religion, racism, acceptance, love, truth, friendship, honor, etc. On top of that, Ms. Jordan's style is an uncanny merging of a bit of Ray Bradbury with a large dose of Margaret Atwood, making her prose and imagery unbelievably rich, compelling, and beautiful. Admittedly, there were some moments where this read a little dense toward the latter part of the book, but it didn't deter me from being completely mesmerized by the tale. I would have liked a teeny bit *more* at the end, but overall I was so moved by this book I recommended it to everyone I know. It's really a stunning redux with so many more layers at play, making it Jordan's impressive own.