Holding On Until “The Heart Goes Last”

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Margaret Atwood is an author I have heard great things about and always wanted to read. The Heart Goes Last: A Novel was my first book by her, and it was, well, interesting. Charmaine and Stan lived in a dystopian society where money and shelter were scarce. Their desperate living situation prompted them to agree to what seemed like a fantastic arrangement: live in a new home with a stipend in exchange for living in a prison for a month at a time. The perfect solution quickly became a nightmare. 

Stan and Charmaine were pawns in every sense of the word. They were used by society, by the government, by the men running the prison system, and the people trying to oppose the prison industry’s real objective. As a result, Stan and Charmaine were not stronger characters who sought to change their condition. Instead, they were forced to become heroes. That journey led them into scandalous sexcapades, forced Stan to impersonate Elvis, and made Charmaine decide whether she would kill Stan. I think for dystopian books to work, the protagonist has to be the character who wants to rebel against the oppressive society. That’s why I think novels like The Hunger Games and The Blondes work so well. Here, although I wanted the social climate to change, I wasn’t really rooting for Stan or Charmaine, even though their personalities were fairly well-developed.

Truthfully, I wanted to like this novel more than I did. The whole premise and execution was too absurd. I appreciated the linear plot and vibrant wording, but overall this didn’t make a huge impression on me.


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