When She Woke
Again, the cover of this book is what first caught my eye. The redness of the woman left me intrigued along with how her eyes are hidden. Like she was hiding in shame. A great example of a cover matching the story nicely. The main character, indeed is in deep shame throughout.
When She Woke by Hillary Jordan is basically a re-imagining of The Scarlet Letter. It takes place in a not too distant future where society has to deal with Chromes. Chromes are the people who are convicted of crimes that must have their skin dyed with a colour matching their crimes. It is a fascinating story that comments on the age-old story of racial bigotry but from a completely new idea (at least in my reading history).
The story follows Hannah Payne as she navigates society and life after becoming a Chrome. Her crime a result of the love and passion she holds for a man that she refuses to betray. This causes her to become entirely red. Red is for murder (though whether or not you feel she is truly guilty of murder is part of the reader’s journey in this story). The story is about relationships as well and the people we think we know. It is about being deserted, abandoned and turned away from – a story only too familiar to the female throughout time and history. I felt this story was also a commentary on the struggles that women face in society – namely double standards. Too aggressive and you are labelled a bitch. Sexually free and you are labelled a slut. Emotional and outspoken – crazy. Hannah grows in leaps and bounds throughout the story as she is faced with hatred, ignorance and fear and yet it is these very things that allow her to be freed for the first time in her life.
The characters are all well written and there are some poignant moments, especially between Hannah and her father. (Allow me one criticism here – the mother is portrayed as cold and un-nurturing. Another stereotype hoisted on us from time eternal that I am just plain tired of.)
I found myself experiencing a hue of emotions reading this beautiful story of acceptance. Each character stirred my anger, forgiveness and love while some scenes left me incredulous, desperate and sad. We are all of us marked. Whether it is our past, our memories or our mistakes, we are marked by the lives we have led and by the people we love. Whether or not we allow those marks to define us is the challenge this story gives us. Move on, move forward and if that means letting go of what no longer serves you, then may you find the people who will help you along your journey.