cover image Red Clocks

Red Clocks

Leni Zumas. LB/Boudreaux, $26 (368p) ISBN 978-0-316-43481-2

Zumas (The Listeners) imagines a palpable, powerful alternate reality in which the United States has passed the Personhood amendment, reversing Roe v. Wade and making abortion a crime. Four women whose futures changed overnight with the passage of the amendment struggle for equality in rural Oregon. Roberta Stephens has chosen to pursue a teaching career and faces an uphill battle to have a child in an oppressively gendered system while writing a biography of an obscure female polar explorer named Eivør Minervudottir. Roberta’s star pupil is high school student Mattie Quarles, who, finding herself pregnant, makes a run for the Canadian border. Susan Korsmo, the wife of one of Roberta’s colleagues, is quietly suffocating as an overburdened mother of two. Finally there is Gin Percival, a forest-dwelling “mender” providing illegal gynecological services until she is arrested for medical malpractice. As Gin’s court proceedings devolve into a modern-day witch trial, the fates of these women converge—with parallels to the life of Eivør—as they are pushed into a series of bold challenges to the masculine power structures that stifle them. Zumas manages a loose yet consistently engaging tone as she illustrates the extent to which the self-image of modern women is shaped by marriage, career, or motherhood. Dark humor further enhances the novel, making this a thoroughly affecting and memorable political parable. (Jan.)