Charmaine and Stan have a conundrum.
When we meet the couple in The Heart Goes Last, by Margaret Atwood, they are living in their car, almost jobless, virtually homeless and thoroughly fed up. By chance, Charmaine sees an advertisement for ‘Consilience’ — a new, experimental community, for approved applicants only. ‘Consilience’ promises all the freedom, comforts and clean linen that your heart desires…in exchange for one simple thing. Every second month, citizens are require to spend time in Positron, the community prison. While you are inside, Alternates live in your home and go about their daily lives, and then you swap. One month in, one month out. It’s a simple sacrifice for all that stability, right Stan? Only approved applicants, yeah? Well, why not — what could go wrong?!
Written with Atwood’s signature sharp-wit and satirical sensibilities, The Heart Goes Last is dystopia with a sense of humor. Stan and Charmaine both, secretly, develop worrying obsessions with their “Alternates”, leading to some very reckless behaviour. An assortment of characters, including sexbots, Elvis impersonators and some creepy knitted bears, can make the plot feel like a bit of a rabbit warren at times. But it is a highly entertaining story and you are never quite sure who you can trust and or who has ulterior motives.
The Heart Goes Last is a novel that will make you laugh, squirm and cringe in equal measure. It is certainly not a dull ride!