When I first heard that Margaret Atwood was writing a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, I was skeptical. Sometimes, when so much time has passed, it’s better to just let the story rest. But now that I’ve read it (late to the party, but I was late to the Handmaid’s Tale party, too, so…), I actually enjoyed it.
Set 15 years later, the Testaments isn’t quite a continuation of the story, but rather a continuation of the history, told from three perspectives. Agnes grew up in Gilead, unaware of any other way of life. She struggles against the decisions made for her, even as she struggles to maintain the proper attitude and respect. Daisy grew up in Canada, learning about the oppressive government in Gilead, but when her life is turned upside down, she sees the only course of action is working directly against Gilead. Aunt Lydia was involved in the founding of Gilead—though less than willingly—but she’s spent her years doing what she can to stand up for women and waiting for her moment to take action. When their lives collide, each woman must make choices and weigh the dangers against the greater good.
I’d put off reading this book for a while, because I wasn’t really interested and didn’t remember how the first book ended. But I finished the book within one day.
Atwood realized that simply picking up where she left off wouldn’t be the right way to continue the story, so she found an alternate way. Atwood’s three characters narrate their stories in a blatant way, owning their choices, mistakes, and humanity, which makes them relatable.
The story also moves quickly. Even though I’m some ways it seemed to zoom right through the crux of the plot, the buildup was the interesting part, I think, gaining the insight into what made each woman think and act as she did.
Though I didn’t find any of the story particularly surprising, in terms of plot points, it was engaging, and in some ways quite difficult to put down. But I would recommend at least a quick refresher on The Handmaid’s Tale, before diving in.