With this sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood answers all the burning questions we had after the original book. The problem is, those questions didn’t need to be answered. The power of The Handmaid’s Tale lies in its ambiguous ending. The reader didn’t know what happened to the characters next, and that left us to wonder. Was it too good to be true that Offred could escape? What was going to happen to Gilead? How does a society come back from this? And perhaps the most relevant question to our times – how did we let this happen?
The Testaments wraps up the story too neatly and gives readers a happier ending that I originally thought possible. The story follows three main characters – Aunt Lydia, a young woman in Gilead, and a teen activist in Canada. I didn’t bother listing the names of the two latter characters because they both have multiple names. Aunt Lydia’s perspective was by far the most interesting, but even those sections had some major issues. (Is this a totally different character? Did I miss something in The Handmaid’s Tale?) The other two young women’s narratives are presented as witness testimonies, so even though they are risking their lives in the story, the reader knows they survived long enough to debrief someone on their experiences. It felt a bit cinematic at times, especially in the way that all three characters came together in the last bit of the story. Surprise, this book is already being adapted for tv on Hulu. Also, there were several moments in this book that were meant to be big reveals, but if you’ve been keeping up with The Handmaid’s Tale show, then you already know what’s going on. I couldn’t tell if this sequel was meant for book loyalists or not, since there is some information in the book may be confusing if you haven’t seen the show. I did actually enjoy reading this, despite some (quite a few) negative opinions. Atwood is a talented writer, and this book was so gripping that I didn’t want to put it down. At the end, however, I put down the book and stared at the ceiling asking myself, “Whyyyy???“
She should have just left this alone. If she did feel the need to write another book about Gilead, why not make it a prequel? I think that would have resonated with more readers in our present America. Also, why does she refuse to address LGBT+ and race issues in Gilead? There is nary a mention. We all know that issues white hetero women face are real, but those issues are a far cry from what minority groups deal with. What does such an oppressive society as Gilead look like for those people? Give me some intersectionality, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale adaptation on Hulu has done a much better job in this aspect, though it’s still not perfect.
In the end, I gave this 3/5 stars on Goodreads, but I’m beginning to wonder if I was a bit generous.