Book Review: Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

Red Clocks

Five women. One question. What is a woman for?

In this ferociously imaginative novel, abortion is once again illegal in America, in-vitro fertilization is banned, and the Personhood Amendment grants rights of life, liberty, and property to every embryo. In a small Oregon fishing town, five very different women navigate these new barriers alongside age-old questions surrounding motherhood, identity, and freedom.

Ro, a single high-school teacher, is trying to have a baby on her own, while also writing a biography of Eivør, a little-known 19th-century female polar explorer. Susan is a frustrated mother of two, trapped in a crumbling marriage. Mattie is the adopted daughter of doting parents and one of Ro’s best students, who finds herself pregnant with nowhere to turn. And Gin is the gifted, forest-dwelling homeopath, or “mender,” who brings all their fates together when she’s arrested and put on trial in a frenzied modern-day witch hunt.

My Review:

When I first started to read Red Clocks, I wasn’t sure this was going to be the book for me. But then, I continued reading, and boy was I wrong!

I got a bit confused at first by the chapter changes — each chapter is from one of the four main character’s point of view and their name is never mentioned in that chapter. However, once I got to know the characters, their voices were so unique that there was no danger of confusing them.
I love the premise of the book — that in the near future (ie, anytime, really), the abortion laws in the US are repealed and embryos are granted person status, which changes everything around reproduction. Also, there’s a new law around adoption where “every child needs two”, meaning single people can no longer adopt. Red Clocks takes place just as these new laws are going into effect so that we can see their full impact.
By throwing the world into this kind of situation, combined with the story of the 19th century Icelandic Arctic explorer, Elivor. Zumas is able to explore the concept of motherhood from many different angles in a fascinating and thoughtful way. By about mid way through the book, I couldn’t put it down and just had to finish.
NOTE: I received an ecopy of this book via NetGalley.

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