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344 pages, Hardcover
First published October 4, 2011
“I could write a book on the subject.” One by one. She conjured all the boxes she’d been put into: The good girl box and the good Christian box. The confines of her sewing room above the garage. The Mistress box, played out in the boxes of all those indistinguishable hotel rooms. The sweltering room in apartment 122. The jail cell, the interrogation room, the witness box at her trial. The bad daughter and fallen woman boxes. Her red body in the mirrored cell on the Chrome ward, a box within a box within a box. The enlightenment room, Mrs Henley’s parlor. The locked rooms at the safe house and at Stanton’s. The wooden crate. And now, for the second time, the trunk of a car…In another scene, one character is washing another’s hair, pouring water over the cleanee’s head. Jordan felt it necessary to refer to this as a strange form of baptism. Duh-uh. Do you have to spell that out? There are other times when this is done. It strikes me as a miss by the editor, but who knows? Still, a pet peeve for me
“You don’t have to stop thinking and asking questions to believe in God, child. If He’d wanted a flock of eight billion sheep, He wouldn’t have given us opposable thumbs, much less free will.”
"She saw a perky blonde news anchor, the annoying type still trying at 40 to be adorable."
Once again, she marveled at her certainty. Had becoming a Red given her an extra sense, a knowledge of the hidden desires and evil in other hearts? She shook her head as a more likely, less romantic explanation occurred to her: becoming a Red had forced her, for the first time in her life, to really pay attention. [pp.185-6]
"Nah, I'm not religious. I mean, not like they taught us in church, anyway. I figure if there is a God, She's good and surged right now about the state of things down here."
That's blasphemy, Hannah thought, with a flare of outrage that was followed, a beat later, by wonder at the vehemence of her reaction. Why, when she no longer believed, would she respond like that? It had been pure reflex, she realized. She had no more control over it than she would over her salivary glands in the presence of freshly baked bread. Was that all her religious beliefs had ever been then, a set of precepts so deeply inculcated in her that they became automatic, even instinctive? Hear the word God, think He. See the misery of humankind, blame Eve. Obey your parents, be a good girl, vote Trinity Party, never sit with your legs apart. Don't question, just do as you're told. [p.186]
[Stanton] carried the conversation, entertaining them with stories of Columbus and its distinguished inhabitants, who'd once included Tennessee Williams and Eudora Welty. All Hannah knew about them was that they were both long-dead writers, but they were evidently favorites of Kayla's, because her face lit up, and she plunged into an animated discussion about them with Stanton. Listening to their exchange, Hannah was suffused with bitterness about her own ignorance. If she hadn't had to sneak books into the house and read them in hasty, furtive snatches, if she'd gone to a normal high school and then on to college as Kayla had, she too would have been able to assert that Miss Welty could write circles around Faulkner and have an opinion as to whether Streetcar Named Desire or The Glass Menagerie was Williams's masterpiece. She'd always believed that her parents had done right by her, but now, sitting mute at Stanton's table, she found herself seething over their choices. Why had they kept her life so small? Why had they never asked her what she wanted? At every possible turn, she saw, they'd chosen the path that would keep her weak and dependent. And the fact that they wouldn't see it that way, that they sincerely believed they'd acted in her best interest, didn't make it any less true, or them any less culpable. [pp.252-3]
”That Hannah had been a good girl and a good Christian, whose life had revolved around the twin nuclei of her family and the church; who lived with her parents, worked as a seamstress at a local bridal salon, gone to services on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights and Bible classes twice a week, volunteered at the thrift shop and campaigned for Trinity party candidates. Who was obedient to her parent’s wishes- in almost everything.”But try as she might, she never seems to be able to conform to her parent’s wishes, always questioning the church’s teachings and why she is held to believe what she has been taught, with it’s suppression of women and religious fanaticism.
”Becca was a sunny, obedient child who swam through adolescence and into womanhood with an ease Hannah envied. Becca never struggled to follow God’s plan or had any doubts about what it was, never yearned for something indefinably more. Hannah tried to be like her sister, but the more she suppressed her true nature, the stronger it burst forth when her resolve weakened, as it inevitably did.”Then she really finds herself in a pickle when she has an affair with, becomes pregnant, and aborts the baby of her lover, who happens to be Aidan Dale, one of the most important religious figures in the nation. She gets caught and is chromed red, which screams to the world of the crime she committed. But Hannah is not like other women in her predicament. Her fierce will to survive outweighs all the challenges that are thrown at her in an effort to escape the religious suppression and extreme prejudices that are her new daily life.
”Feminists. The word made Hannah bristle with distaste. In her world, they were viewed as unnatural women who sought to overturn the order laid down by God, sabotage the family, emasculate men, and along with gays, atheists, abortionists, Satanists, pornographers, and secular humanists, pervert the American way of life. She’d never questioned much of what she’d been taught, and certainly not the precept that women were meant to submit to the loving guidance of men.”I thought the whole romance between Hannah and Aidan was a bit on the romantic obsession side, but done pretty well. When both sides have been religiously suppressed for such a long period of time, the unrequited love is bound to be unbearable. And when you’re a public figure such as Aidan Dale, it’s torturous.
”Their attraction grew slowly, haltingly, unacknowledged but unmistakable. At times, it was so palpable she half expected it would materialize, sinuous and glistening, in the air between them.”Aidan is one of those charismatic preachers that has just enough charm to not be considered a total sleazebag, but enough to be considered obsessed with himself. To tell you the truth, I had mixed feelings regarding his true feelings for Hannah. On the one hand, he did seem to love her deeply, but I think it was marred by his love for himself.His borderline obsession with being the best preacher, and the most powerful one at that, kind of tarnished his character for me, especially towards the end. But I liked how the author played out his conflicting feelings and his many flaws, ironically acknowledging the fact that most of these mega-preachers are really two-faced in the end.