The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

The Testaments: The Sequel to The Handmaid's Tale Book Cover The Testaments: The Sequel to The Handmaid's Tale
The Handmaid's Tale
Margaret Atwood
Dystopian Fiction, Literary Fiction
Nan A. Talese
September 10, 2019
Hardcover, Paperback, Audiobook, Kindle

More than fifteen years after the events of The Handmaid's Tale, the theocratic regime of the Republic of Gilead maintains its grip on power, but there are signs it is beginning to rot from within. At this crucial moment, the lives of three radically different women converge, with potentially explosive results.

Two have grown up as part of the first generation to come of age in the new order. The testimonies of these two young women are joined by a third voice: a woman who wields power through the ruthless accumulation and deployment of secrets.

As Atwood unfolds The Testaments, she opens up the innermost workings of Gilead as each woman is forced to come to terms with who she is, and how far she will go for what she believes.

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood will hook you once again

If you are a fan of The Handmaid’s Tale (the book or the Hulu series) and have not read The Testaments by Margaret Atwood, drop everything and start right now.

Important background

I can’t review The Testaments without first discussing its predecessor. The Handmaid’s Tale was part of my reading list at some point in high school. I can’t recall if I ever read it or not. I want to think I didn’t because I would be unable to understand reading it and not being completely changed, forever affected by it. Maybe the book didn’t have a significant impact on me back then because I was a blissfully ignorant teenager, unaware of the everyday struggles women face every day in this world.

While season one of The Handmaid’s Tale first aired on Hulu, I decided to order the book. I couldn’t patiently wait between episodes. I craved to know more about Offred, explore her thoughts. I wanted to compare the version in the book to the series. I just needed more.

It was busy at work, and I was not reading it as fast as I wanted. Because I had a long commute back then, I decided to switch to the special edition audiobook narrated by Claire Danes. It was my first audiobook ever, and it blew me away. I’ll skip the detailed review of The Handmaid’s Tale book. Fellow Litbuzz Bee wrote a full review, and you should read it. I will say that “reading”/ listening The Handmaid’s Tale in 2017 was emotional, scary, beautiful, and moving. You don’t need to read The Handmaid’s Tale to understand The Testaments, but you definitely should.

Back to Gilead

The Testaments, much like The Handmaid’s Tale, narrates a period in time in the puritan theocracy of Gilead. This time we have three narrators, a woman who is part of the establishment and an enforcer, and two young women, who have only lived in a world where Gilead not only exists but is also a dominant force. One of them raised in Gilead and the other across the border in Canada. Their stories are masterfully interspersed to tell one poignant narrative of women who are tested, who rise up, and who fight to survive.

I made choices, and then, having made them, I had fewer choices. Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I took the one most traveled by. It was littered with corpses, as such roads are. But as you will have noticed, my own corps is not among them.” Excerpt from The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
Their stories are also brutal. [CONTENT ALERT: This book narrates scenes of violence against women and molestation.] They live in a world where women are a means to an end. They live in contrasting worlds, but they each struggle with their reality and to find their voice. They are different ages, and their stories all develop at different times, but their stories are not that different. As I read this book, I couldn’t help developing a deep admiration for each of them. It was almost impossible for me to judge them, even when I struggled with their choices.

I’m intentionally being vague about this book’s plotline. I fear if I get too into this review, I will spoil for you, my reader. This book is full of secrets for you to uncover and characters you need to get to know.

A cup of realness fuels Atwood’s literary fiction

In The Testaments, Margaret Atwood writes in the acknowledgments that no event is allowed into [the book] that does not have a precedent in human history,  and I think that’s the most important take away from both The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments. Even though the books tell different stories, with both, we all learn to be more humane, to show more compassion, to be more aware, more outspoken, and to everyday work to appreciate and rely on each other a bit more. Because when even a few stand together, they can be a force to be reckoned with.

Don’t miss out on it.


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