Book Review: The Handmaid’s Tale

Recently, I joined a book club run by one of my best friends which focuses on promoting critical thinking, especially in terms of the political and social issues of today. The book club is called Books for the Resistance.

We kicked-off the book club with a classic: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Published in 1985, this book continues to resonate with every new wave of readers. It’s a striking look at social issues including sexism, reproductive rights, classism, environmental issues, and the sometimes at-odds struggle to feel safe while also feeling free.

The book follows Offred, a so-called Handmaid, who is one of the few women in Gilead (formerly the United States) who is physically capable of bearing children. As a Handmaid, she is assigned to a family-of-sorts, where her sole role is to conceive a child from the Commander. There are few freedoms in Gilead, especially for a Handmaid. Communication with the outside world is controlled by the militant government, and may be entirely propaganda and lies. Societal roles are strict, inspired by Puritan values.

The details of the establishment of Gilead are scarce, told second-hand through Offred. Some details the reader is given include the fact that there was some sort of coup that overthrew the previous government; at one point, all bank accounts belonging to women were frozen, forcing them to depend on the men in their lives; and issues infiltrated society ranging from environmental disasters to a strong cultural shift against sexual and reproductive freedoms.

Is it any wonder this book continues to resonate with people? It takes these issues to the extreme, and forces the reader to take a good hard look at them. It’s not a pretty sight, but Atwood weaves hope throughout the story. There are whispers of dissent, rumors of an Underground Railroad-type system helping people escape to Canada. The tale ultimately seems to view society in an optimistic light: things can take a turn for the worse, but they will never stay that way. Society will find a way through, to move forward. The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

Have you read The Handmaid’s Tale? What did you think? Are you excited for the Hulu series?

Meet the Characters: Snezhana Krupina

(Image source: Already Pretty)

For this series, I’m going to delve into the characters of Grigory’s Gadget in the style of those fun/silly surveys that pop-up on social media from time-to-time. I’ll also include name pronunciation, because I know a lot of people have been asking about that! (That being said, you can pronounce the names of my characters however you like, I’ll just be listing the “official” pronunciation) This post will be about Snezhana Krupina.

WARNING: Mild spoilers for Grigory’s Gadget contained in this post!

Name: Snezhana Krupina (sneh-ZHAH-nah KROO-pee-nah) née Sokoll (soh-KOHL)

Name Meaning: Snezhana – from the Slavic word for “snowy”; Krupina – from the West Slavic word for “barley”; Sokoll – Slavic word for “falcon”

Age: in her 50s

Physical Appearance: Light skin, short brown hair, blue eyes, wears an eyepatch

Hometown: Unknown

Family: Her brother is the pirate Captain Edmund Sokoll of the Ocean’s Legend; her nephew is Alexi Sokoll

Relationship Status: she is married; her husband was not discussed in Grigory’s Gadget

Education: unknown

Religion: None

Greatest Strengths: great fighter and leader, keeps her sights on the larger picture

Greatest Weaknesses: her morality has become skewed after living as a pirate and being betrayed by her own brother

Favorite Color: Blue

Hobbies: reading up on mystical artifacts, helping to start revolutions

Biggest Goal in Life: Destroy the Bronnerush and get revenge on her brother

Book Review: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

I finished reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman a couple weeks ago, and I’m posting this delayed review because I needed time to process!

Let me back up, and, oh yeah, SPOILER WARNING!

American Gods follows the story of Shadow, a convict who was just released from prison only to discover his wife died in a car accident while cheating on him with his friend. As if that wasn’t enough to handle, a certain ancient god inserts himself into Shadow’s life and brings him along for an adventure of epic weirdness.

This god, Odin from Norse mythology going by the alias Wednesday, brings Shadow to meet other gods and other mythological beings as he tries to rally forces against the new gods: gods of technology and pop culture, etc. He says a war is coming, and the old gods need to fight to survive.

A whole lot of trippy weirdness ensues, including but definitely not limited to the reanimation of Shadow’s wife via magical sun-coin.

Near the climax of the story, Wednesday is killed by the new gods, and Shadow agrees to hold his vigil. In this instance, holding vigil means being tied to a tree while naked for days and days. Shadow, being human (kind of, more on that in just a moment), dies. He travels the underworld/afterlife, and at one point chooses to walk a path that reveals truths about his life. One of these truths: Wednesday is his father. Shadow is a demi-god.

Some more weirdness ensues and Shadow is brought back to life by the goddess Easter. The war has started, Wednesday’s death spurring the old gods into action, and Shadow goes to play his part.

Shadow pieces together that Wednesday’s intentions were not very noble. He and fellow Norse god Loki (known to Shadow as his old prison buddy Low Key – come on, Shadow!) feed on wars fought in his name and chaos, respectively. They set the entire war into motion so that they could become stronger and more powerful, at the expense of the lives of all the other gods, old and new alike.

Those bastards.

Shadow, being a resurrected demi-god and all, alerts the other gods to this plan and effectively stops the war. Odin and Loki’s plan is foiled, and they die.

That is an extremely over-simplified breakdown of the events of this novel! It’s definitely a trip, and if you can keep up with all of the “real” world vs spirit world/otherworld/underworld/etc stuff, it’s a great story. It’s also great if you’re a mythology nerd. Some gods’ identities are spelled out for the reader, but some are not. If you’re a mythology nerd, it’s fun to pick up on which god is which.

One of the main themes of the novel is, of course, the battle between traditions and the old world vs technology and the way of the future. The moral of the story, it seems to me, is that it doesn’t have to be a battle. The old and the new can peacefully coexist.

Overall I really enjoyed the novel, and am beyond excited that it’s going to be a TV series! If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the trailer for that: