Book reviews

Hillary Jordan’s When She Woke (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2011)

Hillary Jordan’s fantasy fiction When She Woke is a wonderful example of how paranoid anti-life thinking can get.  I mean, who in his or her right mind thinks that pro-lifers want to “melachrome” aborted mothers?  Answer: an anti-life author who praises the abortionist Marc Heller in typical anti-life terms (see page 344).

The novel is based on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter; the characters’ names follow those in Hawthorne’s classic (the life-affirming Hester Prynne is rewritten as the aborted mother Hannah Payne; the weak-spirited Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale has an even paler counterpart in Rev. Aiden Dale).  Unfortunately, the novel’s premise is more modern anti-life paranoia than satiric reality based on a classic of American literature.  When the Human Life Amendment is eventually passed, pro-lifers will not seek to have mothers who have aborted melachromed, which is a process whereby their skin is changed to red, similar to Hester Prynne’s being punished by wearing the scarlet letter A for her adultery.  What will happen when the amendment is ratified, of course, is that mothers will once again have the reproductive right to give birth to the unborn whom they carry; fathers will once again have the reproductive right to “man up” and care not only for their lovers or wives, but also for the unborn babies whom they helped to create; finally, society will not suffer the consequences of millions of abortions performed every year on mothers who think they have no help in carrying the unborn to term.

The novel, does, however, have two redeeming values.  First, Hannah discovers through her sojourn that her fundamentalist faith is a distortion of Christianity; the novel is thus a warning for our Protestant brothers and sisters who rely excessively on scripture and often fall into tortured interpretations of “what the Bible says.”  That they should balance their interpretations with tradition is obvious, but that would make them Catholics.  Many fundamentalists would find returning to the 2,000 year old faith abhorrent since they are bigoted against Catholics, and such an opportunity to correct their mistakes is not likely in the foreseeable future.  Second, the novel reinforces the literary tradition that Canada (in this case, Québec) is a safe haven for Americans who want to escape an autocratic government.

Thank you, Hillary Jordan, for writing such a paranoid novel that all of us—anti-lifers and pro-lifers—can enjoy!

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