Every Tuesday, unless I forget or have something better to do, I post a review I originally posted on Goodreads in the near and not so near past. Some of the books may no longer be in print, but I hope that most of the really good ones have survived. I'll do my best to let you know if one that is out of circulation is worth the time to find, though. I promise. Unless I forget.
This review of Hillary Jordan's When She Woke originally appeared in August of 2011.
I had been eagerly awaiting a new novel from Hillary Jordan since the day I finished reading her beautifu novel Mudbound. When I read the blurb on the ARC of this new one it was clear she was going to take me in a whole different direction. That was fine. I don't think a novelist has to keep revisiting the same places or emotional landscapes over and over again. If they are good, I'm willing to follow them nearly anywhere.
Unfortunately, When She Woke is utterly devoid of any of the poetry, imagery, heart, or soul of Mudbound. This mash-up of The Scarlet Letter and The Handmaid's Tale is a didactic mess. Mostly one-dimensional characters, predictable plot developments, and a general phone-it-in pall over the last half of the novel make this one utterly impossible for me to recommend.
I usually stop reading any book that isn't grabbing me, but this one did initially, and in a big way. I would have quit reading it mid-journey had it come from anyone other than Ms. Jordan, but I was so sure that her voice would come through I kept plugging away and waiting for her to show up.
She might as well have been Godot.