Monday, October 5, 2015

Review: The Heart Goes Last: A Novel by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood puts the human heart to the ultimate test in an utterly brilliant new novel that is as visionary as The Handmaid's Tale and as richly imagined as The Blind Assassin.
     Stan and Charmaine are a married couple trying to stay afloat in the midst of an economic and social collapse. Job loss has forced them to live in their car, leaving them vulnerable to roving gangs. They desperately need to turn their situation around—and fast. The Positron Project in the town of Consilience seems to be the answer to their prayers. No one is unemployed and everyone gets a comfortable, clean house to live in . . . for six months out of the year. On alternating months, residents of Consilience must leave their homes and function as inmates in the Positron prison system. Once their month of service in the prison is completed, they can return to their "civilian" homes.
     At first, this doesn't seem like too much of a sacrifice to make in order to have a roof over one's head and food to eat. But when Charmaine becomes romantically involved with the man who lives in their house during the months when she and Stan are in the prison, a series of troubling events unfolds, putting Stan's life in danger. With each passing day, Positron looks less like a prayer answered and more like a chilling prophecy fulfilled.

I found this book to be heavier than I thought it would be, mostly because it tells a story of a future that could very well be a reality in a hundred years or less.

In The Heart Goes Last, Stan and Charmaine have fallen on hard times, and they decide to sign up for an experimental project. By signing up for The Positron Project, they are guaranteed jobs, homes and meals. However, something sinister is going on and Stan and Charmaine's futures may not be in their hands at all.

While this book is not my usual type of reading material, I certainly appreciated its world-building, the complexity of the characters, and how well-thought out it was.

With the recession and financial downturns that some countries have taken, Stan and Charmaine's dilemma is something that a lot of people have probably experienced. On the outside, the idea of Positron sounds good. I think it could certainly work. However, as we see as the book progresses, even good ideas can be corrupted once greed, lust and other human weakness come in. The scariest innovation mentioned in the book and experienced by some of the characters is quite chilling. It's something that I imagine a lot of stalkers and perverts would love to be real.

I liked that the book raised questions about free will, love and lust. Would we make the same choices as these characters? When it comes down to it, what's really important to us?

The complexity of the characters was quite interesting to me. Stan and Charmaine both have issues. Stan has a tiny bit of an anger issue, while Charmaine just can't shake her feelings for the guy she cheats on Stan with. Funny enough, even though I think Charmaine is terrible wife and person overall, I didn't despise her in the blind-rage way I sometimes get with characters like her. Stan was a bit more likable for me, although there were a couple of moments that I thought he was a jerk.

I loved the final twist at the end. I had a feeling that's where it was headed, but the way it fit in to everything that happened gave it a greater meaning, and left me with heavy feeling in my chest when it was over.

Thanks to NetGalley and Doubleday Books for the e-ARC.


  1. The world-building is excellent.
  2. The characters are complex.
  3. It raises some serious questions. 


  1. I couldn't sympathize with Charmaine at all.  


  1. You like complex characters.
  2. You like dystopian novels.
  3. You like books that make you think. 



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