cover image Religion in the Handmaid’s Tale: A Brief Guide

Religion in the Handmaid’s Tale: A Brief Guide

Colette Tennant. Fortress, $12.99 trade paper (150p) ISBN 978-1-5064-5630-0

Tennant (Eden and After), a poet and English professor at Corban University, offers a revealing guide to the Christian and biblical language, allusions, and themes in both Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) and the Hulu series based on it. Tennant divides her study into five chapters, covering the biblical origins of people and place names, biblical allusions, signs and symptoms of Christianity “gone awry,” gender politics and religion, and Christian content specific to the screen adaptation. Rather than religion in The Handmaid’s Tale, however, Tennant’s analysis focuses narrowly on Christianity—often with reference to specific biblical passages. For instance, she explains how the greeting “blessed be the fruit” finds its origin in Luke 1: 42, and how the name Serena Joy “reflects two of the gifts of the Holy Spirit listed in Galatians” and draws attention to the fact the character is neither serene nor joyful. In the most intriguing chapter, Tennant makes the point that abandoned churches in the dystopian setting reinforces the ways in which Gilead’s leaders are “using religion for political control but lacking actual faith... churches have become museums.” Christian fans of Atwood’s story will find much use in this easily browsed handbook of scriptural references. (Sept.)