“So when most of the men were dead, women saw their chance to take over?” Kate searches her son’s eyes as he asks this. “Not take over,” she says. “Fix things.” It wasn’t hard to justify what the women had done since the end of the Last War. They rebuilt their bombed-out neighborhoods as best they could and tried to establish peace and gender equality. But small groups of men roam the country, viciously indicating that the pendulum may have swung too far. When a bedraggled man shows up on Kate’s doorstep one night, will she risk everything to help him? Does he deserve her help?
Women’s Work is set in a dystopic world in the Pacific Northwest, where women struggle to survive through sustenance farming, clever engineering, and a deeply rooted sisterhood. Kate and her family are led through a journey from anger and fear to forgiveness and hope. It is a compelling story that challenges all of us to question traditional gender roles and to confront the fragility of love.
I initially wanted to read this book because the synopsis brought to mind The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood, and the twist on this type of dystopian theme intrigued me as I had thoroughly enjoyed the aforementioned book. Unfortunately, this one lost its way somewhere in the pages, and I’m still trying to figure out where this happened.
The characters in this book are, for the main part, all women and given the theme of the book I fully expected them to be strong and capable with none of the insecurities felt by their gender prior to the events that heralded this story. I found them to be full of paranoia and the usual backstabbing insecurities that are rife in many of my gender today, and this was a total let down. I enjoyed the main protagonist immensely, up to a point, but then even she let me down. I felt so much more could have been done to develop the characters encountered whilst reading this book but, as they are I am sure that if this is chosen for a read of the month by a book club they will be the starting off point for many interesting discussions.
For me, the redeeming part of the book was how the characters managed to adapt to a world without any of the conveniences we know in our lives, it was almost as if the book were written from a historical point of view with people from the future populating it. I enjoyed reading about the various ways they adapted things to make what they needed to survive, and also how their lives were very much dictated by the length of the days and the seasons.
Everything this book covers could have led to an outstanding novel if padded out more, and imagination were allowed to raise its head occasionally; however, instead of this happening the book comes across as being very black and white and reads rather more like a dissertation on gender dynamics than the book I was expecting. Despite my misgivings about this book, the Author is certainly a skilled writer and I felt that I would have enjoyed this more if she had not tried to pack so much into such a small number of pages, 298 to be exact.
Although I would recommend this book to book clubs that are looking for a read that will spark a lively discussion, I doubt very much if I will be reading anything else by this author.