What if you were living in your car? What if you were worried about thugs stealing your vehicle? If you did not know when you would have your next shower? What if your diplomas and degrees no longer mattered in your search for work? What if you were wearing dirty clothes and searching for day old donuts of food fresh from the dumpsters for breakfast? The Heart Goes Last begins with Charmaine and Stan, living in their car, trying to keep safe and yearning for their past life in their cozy home.
Charmaine was lucky to find a low-paying job at a bar. During a shift, she happened to view a television advertisement which portrayed a better life – a life of comfort and living in a nice home every other month. On the opposite month, they would become prisoners, working and living in the local prison. When faced with their reality of living in their smelly car, this option seemed viable and they signed on – for life!
Once on the inside, their was no turning back. They both settled into their jobs and became part of their community. Fraternizing with their alternates, who shared their home on opposite months, was forbidden. Things went smoothly until Stan found a note that had fallen beneath the refrigerator. It was written to Max from Jasmine and was sealed with a garish pink lipstick kiss. After reading this note, Stan indulges in fantasies about Jasmine while he is unaware that Charmaine is involved in a torrid affair. Their lives are turned upside down and they are forced to make decisions that will have a lasting impact on their marriage and their lives.
This book had been on my TBR shelf since meeting Margaret Atwood as part of the One Book One Milton event in November. Margaret Atwood really is the ‘first lady of Canadian fiction’ and I loved her energy and spunk as she spoke to a large group. The Heart Goes Last is her 15th novel which was published in 2015. It examines decisions that are made in desperation and how power leads to greed and crime. The novel is timely and touches on euthanasia at a time when Canada has recently legalized Medical Assistance in Death for individuals with a grievous and irremediable medical condition.
If you are looking for a thought-provoking, well-written dystopic tale, The Heart Goes Last will be a perfect choice. It was a great book to begin the new year!