|The Heart Goes Last
"Sleeping in the car is cramped."
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.
The Heart Goes Last starts off with the destruction of the middle class, the rise of the upper class and the end of all comfort we know of (unless you happen to be rich, of course). While the rich get richer, the middle class is dried up like a prune and left to rot without a job, money or anywhere to turn to. Complete hopelessness. What do you do? I love the way Atwood touches on the future, which is so probable you can taste it... truly terrifying. Right from the start you can relate to Charmaine and Stan, both losing their jobs and knowing how hard it will be to find a new one. Since the world changes and changes quickly, they lose the house and are forced to live out of their car. You can only feel pity for this couple.
But wait! Did you hear? There is a solution (says a commercial on TV one day). Come sign up and live in Positron, we will take care of you completely! Thinking it must be too good to be true, but also hard to pass up, they decide to try it out - which leads them to find out that this town is balanced between living free and working in a prison. Everyone does "time" and then switches out to live "life" on a monthly basis. This part was a little hokey for me and I didn't understand why Atwood used it when I found it didn't strengthen any of her messages.
Without going much further into the plot (plenty left), I can say that Atwood punches you in the face with some eye opening themes of greed, violence, death, survival and so much more. The title of the book is mentioned within the plot and is hard to miss but I did appreciate the connection. The ending was the saving grace of the book, taking away all of the dull middle section and giving the readers something to gasp about. Let me just be frank, this ending is fraked up. You'll have to read it for yourself to find out why. ;)
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