When She Woke

I’ve noted on this blog that I like to read updated/revised works of literary classics (updated Wuthering Heights/the sequel to Dracula, etc..).  Most of the time I don’t enjoy the book — my expectations are always a bit high, I’m afraid.  However, I did just finish a book that lived up to my high expectations, and from what I understand, the critical response has been great, also.

When She Woke, by Hillary Jordan, is a sci/fi, dystopian look at what could be a possible (and scary) future of the United States.  In this book, Hannah Payne, a young religious woman, is convicted of the murder of her unborn child.  For her crime, her skin is colored red — in this society, criminals are colored according to different crimes; for instance, child molesters are colored blue.  She refuses to name the baby’s father who is a prominent religious leader in the country.  She also refuses to name the doctor who performed the abortion.  She must serve her sentence (I think it was 20+ years) in the color of red.

This is not a novel debating the pro-life/pro-choice dilemma — instead, it is a novel that very much looks at the nature and definition of crime, who is in power to define crime and punishment, and the people who are caught on all sides.  The main character is not a saint.  In fact, she does many things that I did not like — but I still found her to be sympathetic. 

Readers of this book may liken Jordan’s work to The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.  And I did see the similarities.  Of course, the main references are towards Hawthorne’s classic, The Scarlet Letter (Believe it or not, I didn’t read this classic until college.  Unlike most high school students, I loved the book!)  I don’t know what Hawthorne would think, but I thought that Jordan did a great update of his classical work! 

For those of you trying to find time to read during this busy season, you may want to push and shove time in your schedule for this book.  I sat down Monday night (yes, when I should have been grading papers) and read the whole book in just under three hours.


  1. 1englishteacher Said:

    It’s definitely a great book club choice, as there is so much to discuss who is in charge and why and the people who are
    caught up in decisions made by someone other than themselves.

  2. Karen Said:

    I can see why it’s a popular choice!

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