When Hannah Payne awoke, her skin was colored red. She had been chromed. Her skin was altered with a virus that changed the skin pigment to indicate the nature of her crime. Alone in a cramped cell, televised for 30 days for the public to view, Hannah relives the crime she committed that sentenced her to more than a dozen years of punishment. The crime? Adultery and having an abortion, something illegal in her home state of Texas.
As a retelling of The Scarlet Letter, I found that Jordon did an amazing job with When She Woke. This book also reminded me of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. I couldn’t put this book down, I wanted to know what was going to happen to Hannah Payne. She goes through many channels of change, internally as well as externally. Hannah questions her faith, her family and all those around her. Set in a not to distant future, Jordan set up an oppressive environment that is actually not to far off the mark at the moment. Women’s rights are in question, or non-existent in the Christian community that Hannah was a part of in her former life.
I loved how well Jordan handled religion and extremists in this book. She balanced the left with the right, and sent Hannah through a search for a faith that best fit her, not a faith that was forced upon her. The only thing that bothered me was Hannah’s sudden deep introspection of the people around her. The author never clearly explained why Hannah all of sudden could guess people’s ulterior motives and see through their lies. The author even makes note of this a few times throughout the book with Hannah wondering where her naive views dissipated to.
I’ve already informed my bookclub that this will be our October book choice. I’m very eager to hear their points of view about the book. There are so many talking points in this novel, it has endless possibilities. Women’s rights, cruel & unusual punishment, abortion, religion, politics, self-awareness, metamorphosis, violence, etc.
Book 46 of 2011