Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: 29 September 2015
Format: eBook, 320 pgs
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Margaret Atwood's latest novel, The Heart Goes Last, take us to a near future where jobs are scarce and social security becomes another threat. However, there's an answer to these problems and one could sign up to live in Consilience and has a new life and a job there. The only things to sacrifice is leaving the outside world (so-called the real unpleasant world) and giving up one's freedom every second month in Positron (a prison cell in Consilience but unlike other prisons, Positron generates optimism and creates fairness to the 'residents' living in Consilience so they will experience the good and the 'bad' and so all is equal and balanced.) The other condition is a married couple will be assigned to live in the same house together with another couple (called the 'Alternates') but they are forbidden to see and/or interact with each other since a couple will stay in Consilience and the other will stay in Positron for a month and vice versa.
Our protagonists, Stan and Charmaine, think this offer is too good to be true. After all, they are jobless and they live in their car and who knows what happens if they continue to hide in their car and be sitting ducks for the robbers and rapists. So they signed up and hope for the best. In the beginning, they are happy but things get mundane and bored until one day Stan found a note in their house - a love message addressing to Max from Jasmine. This little note has made Stan's mind wander, and the more he wanted to know her in person.
Charmaine, on the other hand, finds herself attracted to Max, one of their Alternates, when he returns to their house early one day and found Charmaine there. That chance encounter leads to an infidelity that would destroy their marriages, thus begins the main plot of revenge, manipulation and ultimately, a plan that surprises the readers as well.
If you are a fan of Atwood's, you'd know that her stories are usually intricate and imaginative; and can be both scary and thought-provoking at times. Well, this story is no exceptional. This story made me think how true it is given today's economy and how joblessness can lead to one's desperation and depression. What Consilience offers seems like a perfect plan but it isn't without loopholes. What's ugly about Consilience/Positron is not about their strict rules and regulations but a human's greed and desires which made them to overturn protocols. Then again, there's also humanity, the sense of responsibility and righteousness and most of all, the 'heart goes last' that says a lot about the sentimentality and values of one's love and emotions that allows hope and second chance.
I was really intrigued by the first part of the story; the deeds Charmaine and Stan have done made one thinks of a fatal attraction movie. The second part seemed a bit bizarre to me, but it was also where the pace began to pick up its momentum and where all the actions are. Some of them seemed horrific, and some seemed... did I mention bizarre? Nevertheless, it was an absorbing read. After all, it's Margaret Atwood's.