Red Clocks

Red Clocks

Five women. One question. What is a woman for?In this ferociously imaginative novel, abortion is once again illegal in America, in-vitro fertilization is banned, and the Personhood Amendment grants rights of life, liberty, and property to every embryo. In a small Oregon fishing town, five very different women navigate these new barriers alongside age-old questions surround...

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Title:Red Clocks
Author:Leni Zumas
Rating:
Edition Language:English

Red Clocks Reviews

  • Lotte

    can be described as a dystopian novel, but it feels entirely contemporary. Instead of creating a far-off dystopian society, Leni Zumas picks up on trends in our current political climate and thinks them through. What are the consequences of making abortion illegal in the US? How does a woman trying to have a baby on her own navigate a world in which in vitro fertilization is banned and only married couples are allowed to adopt? Where do larger concepts of woman- and motherhood come in

    can be described as a dystopian novel, but it feels entirely contemporary. Instead of creating a far-off dystopian society, Leni Zumas picks up on trends in our current political climate and thinks them through. What are the consequences of making abortion illegal in the US? How does a woman trying to have a baby on her own navigate a world in which in vitro fertilization is banned and only married couples are allowed to adopt? Where do larger concepts of woman- and motherhood come into play when discussing women's health?

    The author asks all these big questions in the grand scheme of things, while also maintaining a certain closeness to its four (arguably, five) main characters. She tells the story of multiple, very different women and weaves all these different narratives together beautifully. Another recent release that this book is destined to be compared to is

    by Naomi Alderman, which I also read this year and really enjoyed, but which for me lacked a sort of emotional intimacy to its characters.

    however, reads like both a deeply intimate and emotional character study and a highly complex portrait of a near-future society. It's written incredibly lyrically and even though it's not necessarily a light read, I really enjoyed my time reading this!

    --- Thank you to Little, Brown for sending me an advanced reader's copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own though (obviously!).

  • Janelle

    RED CLOCKS by Leni Zumas - Thank you so much to Little, Brown and Company for providing my free copy - all opinions are my own.

    This novel is outstanding! I have not read another book like this. Yes, it’s feminist—in the sense that these women rule their own lives within the confines of the law. Yes, it’s dystopian—in the sense that these same laws are not in effect in the United States today. But, this story was the most realistic dystopian novel I’ve ever read.

    Red Clocks takes place in the ne

    RED CLOCKS by Leni Zumas - Thank you so much to Little, Brown and Company for providing my free copy - all opinions are my own.

    This novel is outstanding! I have not read another book like this. Yes, it’s feminist—in the sense that these women rule their own lives within the confines of the law. Yes, it’s dystopian—in the sense that these same laws are not in effect in the United States today. But, this story was the most realistic dystopian novel I’ve ever read.

    Red Clocks takes place in the near future in the fictional town of Newville, near Salem Oregon. It is written from four main female perspectives: the biographer, the mender, the daughter, and the wife. The Personhood Amendment had just been passed, granting constitutional rights to a fertilized egg at the time of conception. Because of this law, abortions and in vitro fertilization have been banned as the fetus cannot give consent to such procedures. Also, a new law will soon go into effect called Every Child Needs Two, which only allows couples to adopt. As you read, you observe how these women deal with these laws as they apply to their own lives.

    I enjoyed reading about each of these women as they led their very different lives. The biographer is one of my favorite characters; she is witty but at the same time very sad and I was able to empathize with her greatly. The mender (aka “The Witch”), was another favorite of mine, as she uses her herbal remedies to help women that sought medical help. The daughter, a teenager in high school, and the wife, who has two children but feels trapped in an unhappy marriage, were very fleshed out and added to the overall story.

    I enjoyed the novel’s unique structure including the interludes of the biographer’s novel. The character development is excellent. The more I read, slowly but surely, the more I became invested in each character. I love that you start out just knowing these women’s roles in society rather than their names, but over the course of the story, you learn who they are and how they connect to one another.

    To me, Red Clocks has a very Atwoodian feel only because it seems so well researched. I got the same eerie feeling when I read books like The Handmaid’s Tale and Oryx and Crake: the feeling, if you really thought about it, that THIS COULD HAPPEN. Zumas definitely did her homework.

    I really appreciated the complexity of the story; it not only focused on women’s rights but also motherhood, identity, and fertility issues. This novel is brilliant and extremely relevant in today’s world. I recommend this book to everyone but especially people who love dystopia, feminist reads, or who are just curious how the world would look if women lost their reproductive rights. You NEED to read this!

  • Emily

    I could go on, and on, and on, and on about this book, but really the most important thing I can say is that this is now an all-time favorite. It is absolutely brilliant, and I expect to see it not only on "Best Books of the Year" lists, but also "Best Books of the Decade." It's that good.

    We follow five different women whose lives interweave in a small coastal town in Oregon. Their world, though very similar to our own, has passed a "Personhood Amendment" recognizing fetuses as full citizens. Th

    I could go on, and on, and on, and on about this book, but really the most important thing I can say is that this is now an all-time favorite. It is absolutely brilliant, and I expect to see it not only on "Best Books of the Year" lists, but also "Best Books of the Decade." It's that good.

    We follow five different women whose lives interweave in a small coastal town in Oregon. Their world, though very similar to our own, has passed a "Personhood Amendment" recognizing fetuses as full citizens. The most obvious repercussion of this is that abortion is now illegal, but Zumas dives deep into the

    implications of such an amendment. Women and girls who seek abortion are tried with conspiracy to commit murder. In vitro fertilization is also illegal. International relations are affected as women cross borders with the goals of both ending pregnancies and becoming pregnant. Through the lens of the five women we follow, Zumas examines the repercussions what becomes of human nature when you deny women agency over their own bodies. As a backdrop for the rest of the narrative, it's perfectly executed.

    Zumas's writing is a bit experimental, and it works so, so well. It took me a while to pick up on exactly what Zumas is doing, but she often omits the subjects of sentences and writes using fragments. In every case I could see, the grammatical subject was also the subject of that particular chapter, which is to say one of the five women. Much of the book is dedicated to the varied ways in which these women don't have control over their own lives, don't have agency, and by removing them as the subjects of sentences, Zumas creates a beautiful syntactical construction that mirrors the themes of the book. Little things like this, small but brilliant writing choices, are scattered throughout the novel.

    I started this review by saying I could go on basically forever about how much I love this book. I'll cut myself off, and just say that

    is gorgeously, boldly written. It's timely. It's powerful. It's one of the best books I've ever read.

  • Katie

    Red Clocks is a quietly dystopian novel. There has been no war, no plague, no machine gunning down of the senate. Instead, the world Zumas creates is eerily similar to our own. All that has changed is a pro-life government signed a bill into law while the majority of the country sat at home and thought it could never happen. Sound familiar? Uncomfortable yet? Red Clocks feels eerily possible and that possibility is the novel’s strength. Speculative fiction is best when you believe we could take

    Red Clocks is a quietly dystopian novel. There has been no war, no plague, no machine gunning down of the senate. Instead, the world Zumas creates is eerily similar to our own. All that has changed is a pro-life government signed a bill into law while the majority of the country sat at home and thought it could never happen. Sound familiar? Uncomfortable yet? Red Clocks feels eerily possible and that possibility is the novel’s strength. Speculative fiction is best when you believe we could take one wrong turn and end up there.

    One of the first things you notice while reading Red Clocks is the writing. It is disjointed, beautiful, and lyrical. Leni Zumas’s words don’t flow they way you expect them to and, though slightly uncomfortable at first, the end result it wonderful and surprising. I underlined countless sentences and dogeared dozens of pages because I was so thrilled by her unpredictable words.

    “She doesn't want to skip the Math Academy.

    (She kicks Nouri’s gothsickle ass at calculus.)

    Or to push it out.

    She doesn't want to wonder; and she would.

    The kid too—

    Was his mother too young? Too old? Too hot? Too cold?

    She doesn’t want him wondering, or herself wondering.

    And she doesn’t want to worry she’ll be found.

    But she has a self. Why not use it?”

    Dystopian and speculative fiction aspects aside, Red Clocks is primarily a story about the lives of four interweaving women who want four very different things. The Biographer desperately wants to have a child. The Wife wants out of her failing marriage. The Daughter wants to go to the Math Academy. The Mender wants to live a quiet life alone with her animals.

    I LOVED all of these women so much. They are strong and flawed, generous and selfish, loving and spiteful. Despite the labels given to them, they are each fully fleshed out with deep inner lives. You will find no caricatures here.

    As a woman who has always been content on her own, I identified so strongly with the Biographer and the Mender. Both are characters who enjoy being alone and are not looking for a relationship to complete their lives. It was so empowering! I cannot think of another time in literature where women aren’t at least peripherally looking for a relationship. In Red Clocks, the women state firmly that they are fine on their own, thank you very much. In fact, there is no romantic storyline in this novel at all. That’s pretty revolutionary on its own.

    Red Clocks is a beautiful novel about what it’s like to be a woman in a world that takes away your choice. It is a novel about women finding their voices and finding their purpose. I loved every single page. Highly recommend!!!

  • Claire Fuller

    Really enjoyable and thought-provoking read about five women in a version of the United States where abortion and IVF are banned, and all adoptions must be by couples (which doesn't seem so far from reality). The story ticked over quickly, and I found the structure very easy to get into (many short sections - some of which are about an Icelandic explorer). All of them find the courage to stand up for what they want, rather than agreeing to what they are told they should want.

  • Ron Charles

    “Red Clocks” might sound like a dystopian novel, but plenty of conservative politicians are plotting to make it a work of nonfiction. In fact, the author, Leni Zumas, has said that she drew the most frightening details of her story’s misogynistic world from “actual proposals” by men who are currently in control of our government.

    Such is the state of affairs in the early 21st century. Feminist writers of speculative fiction don’t need the bizarre rituals of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 classic, “The Ha

    “Red Clocks” might sound like a dystopian novel, but plenty of conservative politicians are plotting to make it a work of nonfiction. In fact, the author, Leni Zumas, has said that she drew the most frightening details of her story’s misogynistic world from “actual proposals” by men who are currently in control of our government.

    Such is the state of affairs in the early 21st century. Feminist writers of speculative fiction don’t need the bizarre rituals of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 classic, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” or even the fantastical elements of Naomi Alderman’s terrific recent novel, “The Power.” Bridles designed for women’s bodies are already hanging in legislators’ barns, just waiting for Ruth Bader Ginsburg to die.

    The ordinariness of the world that Zumas imagines is perhaps the most unsettling aspect of “Red Clocks,” her second novel. The story is set in a small Oregon town in a future that Mike Pence can almost see if he stands on his pew. The Personhood Amendment to the U.S. Constitution has nullified Roe v. . . . .

  • Mike W

    Three stars = “I liked it”. It was a rewarding reading experience as I was bouncing around in the brains of characters who think about things that have never crossed my mind.

    As an aside, I would love to have explained to me by any of my wise friends the connection of a matriarch with an understanding of the earth and its plants and herbs. I see this in so many novels (Jesmyn award, Toni Morrison most recently among my own reading). This one takes it to a new level however. I won’t give any spoi

    Three stars = “I liked it”. It was a rewarding reading experience as I was bouncing around in the brains of characters who think about things that have never crossed my mind.

    As an aside, I would love to have explained to me by any of my wise friends the connection of a matriarch with an understanding of the earth and its plants and herbs. I see this in so many novels (Jesmyn award, Toni Morrison most recently among my own reading). This one takes it to a new level however. I won’t give any spoilers.

  • Emily May

    I guess we can probably expect more of these weird feminist(?) dystopias in the wake of

    's Hulu series. Between this and the superhero-movie-turned-superhero-book trend, you can pretty much predict the new book trends based on what's popular on the big and small screens.

    Here, Zumas imagines a United States where the Personhood Amendment gives rights to unborn embryos, outlawing abortion and IVF (because said embryos cannot give consent). The Canadian government assist by erect

    I guess we can probably expect more of these weird feminist(?) dystopias in the wake of

    's Hulu series. Between this and the superhero-movie-turned-superhero-book trend, you can pretty much predict the new book trends based on what's popular on the big and small screens.

    Here, Zumas imagines a United States where the Personhood Amendment gives rights to unborn embryos, outlawing abortion and IVF (because said embryos cannot give consent). The Canadian government assist by erecting a figurative "Pink Wall" across the U.S.-Canadian border, meaning that they will capture and return any woman suspected of crossing the border for an abortion or IVF.

    It sounded fascinating to me. Given the political climate in the U.S. and the fervor of pro-life advocates, it is not a particularly implausible scenario.

    (maybe that isn't the right word, but you know what I'm saying).

    It is such a painfully cerebral read, and it feels to me like a book of this kind has the greatest impact when you are pulled deep into the lives and horrors of the characters, not viewing them through a distant lens.

    would be a horror story for many women, including myself, and yet I felt so emotionally-distanced from the story and all four (or you could say five) perspectives.

    I have to assume the emotional distance is intentional. Zumas refers to the four main characters as "The Biographer" (Ro), "The Wife" (Susan), "The Daughter" (Mattie) and "The Mender" (Gin), with the fifth perspective being that of fictional explorer, Eivør Minervudottir, who "The Biographer" is writing a book about.

    Each of the main four are dealing with womanhood issues that are threatened by the new laws. Ro's perspective is easily the most palatable, though we still have to sit through a vaginal exam that unfolds like this:

    Yum.

    Ro is trying desperately to conceive before a new law is introduced banning single parent families. Susan is something of a cliche depressed housewife, struggling with the dissatisfaction of staying home. Mattie is a teenager, pregnant, and unsure of what to do. Gin provides herbal remedies for abortion, amongst other things, and is the modern-day equivalent of a witch under the new amendment.

    Zumas experiments with different styles that change as we jump from one character to another. The narrative is fractured and messy -

    . I appreciate that this will be better suited to the kind of reader I am not.

    Overall, I felt the book was more concept and writing than characters and narrative structure. It really depends on what you're looking for, but I would personally expect a book with this intriguing a premise to contain a strong emotional pull and more of a plot. Oh well. I'm sure similar novels will be on the way.

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  • Book of the Month

    The Handmaid's Tale for Our Generation

    By Judge Cristina Arreola

    Don’t let the pink and red cover fool you. Red Clocks is no romance or “beach read.” Instead, it is a frightening dystopian novel about what happens when politicians successfully manage to push back on women’s reproductive rights little by little, until none are left at all.

    In Lena Zumas’s near-future America, The Personhood Amendment has made both abortion and in-vitro fertilization illegal, and the Every Child Needs Two Act is abou

    The Handmaid's Tale for Our Generation

    By Judge Cristina Arreola

    Don’t let the pink and red cover fool you. Red Clocks is no romance or “beach read.” Instead, it is a frightening dystopian novel about what happens when politicians successfully manage to push back on women’s reproductive rights little by little, until none are left at all.

    In Lena Zumas’s near-future America, The Personhood Amendment has made both abortion and in-vitro fertilization illegal, and the Every Child Needs Two Act is about to make it impossible for unmarried people to adopt children. The story is set in a small town in Oregon, where four women cope with the weight of these laws and the equally-crushing magnitude of societal expectations. There’s Ro, an unmarried writer and teacher desperate to have children but who cannot get pregnant. There’s Mattie, an adopted teenager who has accidentally become pregnant and is desperate for an abortion. Susan is a mother of two children who fantasizes about leaving her husband. And finally, Gin is a young “witch” who offers herbal cures to women in need of gynecological help, including abortions. Their four lives converge and intertwine in strange ways, especially when a heated trial breaks out in their town, forcing them all to grapple with this new world order.

    The true power of Red Clocks lies in the distance the author creates between the women and the reader, in how she intentionally refrains from portraying their emotional states. But then, we don’t need the author to explain how they’re are feeling, do we? The things they feel—the desire to choose or postpone motherhood, the desire to seek fulfillment beyond motherhood, and the fear of realizing that these decisions are no longer yours—are endemic to all women. The takeaway from Zumas’s book is clear: There is no perfect way to be a woman, but it should every woman’s right to choose her own path.

    As I flipped the final pages of this novel, I began to contemplate how I would describe it in this review—dystopian? That is the obvious choice, and it fits. But to me, it reads a bit like horror.

    Read more at

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