The Testaments

by Margaret Atwood

The Testaments, Atwood’s long awaited sequel to her famous The Handmaid’s Tale, sheds further light on Gilead––the United States in the near future, after its transformation into a Christian theocracy. The story is comprised of multiple viewpoints: a Canadian outsider, the daughter of one of Gilead’s elite, and one privy to its inner workings. The author explores the country’s frightening birth and a “present” filled with repression, corruption, and Machiavellian wheeling and dealing, a seeming commentary of both the problematic state of the real world and a cautionary tale of what could be if we allow the rights and freedoms that we so often take for granted to erode. And Atwood showcases her strength and experience as an author by making this side of the story clear without overshadowing a compelling, forward-moving plot. Though I would have preferred less overt explanations as we toured a familiar dystopia, they were never so heavy-handed that they ruined things. And I suppose, from reading about the genesis of The Testaments, that overt explanations were at least part of the point. In a few places I have seen it suggested that Atwood wrote the book in part to address fans’ burning questions about Gilead over the years, so I suspect the unsubtle clarity that I’ve mildly disparaged should instead be welcomed by many other readers.