So I totally already read Marge Piercy’s book many years ago, in high school I imagine. And yet, I didn’t really twig that I had read it until I was about 150 pages in.
But that was okay because it’s a totally great book – even by today’s standards. Hell, it’s better than most books that are written today!
The plot revolves around Connie (Consuelo) who is committed to a mental institution. She was brought there after trying to defend her niece Dolly from Dolly’s pimp, Geraldo. But because of her history within the institution, they basically don’t bother to find out the details and she’s stuck there. Her entire backstory is tragic – hispanic, poor and a woman, she’s failed by the system and the patriarchal oppression of society just weighs on her. Occasional glimpses of happiness are always crushed under the weight of this systematic oppression.
However, she starts visiting the future, with Luciente who shows her an entire other (and potential future world) which is difficult for Connie to comprehend. Gender equality (men and women can both be ‘mothers’ and are genetically modified to express milk but women are grown in ‘brooders’), sexual equality (doesn’t matter who you couple with or how many), equality of labour etc. It’s sort of post-consumerist in that people don’t have that many possessions and a lot of things are communal. There’s scarcity and conflict but in the communities there’s a focus on making everyone healthy and happy.
Connie starts going more and more to the future, as there’s really nothing to do in the mental institution. However, there’s a tying up of the plot with her defiance of the power structures that dominate her life and what possible worlds might come about.
The only flaw is that I hate when you don’t get a satisfying conclusion. This is another book that kind of leaves it to your imagination to determine what has actually happened. But I find that really irritating.
Other than that though, it such a great book. It totally passes the test with even the bonus points! Which really shows that you can have a brilliant sci-fi book that tackles really tough concepts. It also shows that in contrast to the Sad Puppies, there were books that tackled this before this decade rolled around (Woman on the Edge of Time was published in 1976). It was also amazing because while the concepts are really tough, it’s integral to the plot.
It also shows that you read a lot of stuff as a teenager and probably don’t remember how good or bad it actually was. Anyway, totally a brilliant classic to pick up, unlike many other classics which are quite terrible. Read it!