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If you had only 100 words/day, how would you spend them?   (2018-06-09)


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by booksonthebeach

In this near-future dystopia, a right-wing, ultra-conservative preacher leads the "Pure" movement which controls the country to the point where women, girls, and even female babies are forced to wear counters on their wrists which limit them to 100 words per day and administer increasingly painful shocks for each word over that 100. Reading and writing are forbidden. Jobs, passports, and bank accounts, etc., are for men and boys only. Anyone who doesn't adhere to the "Pure" standards--such as adulterers, all LGBTQIA people, and those who protest the restrictions--are sent to "work camps" to do hard manual labor in utter silence. And worse.

Dr. Jean McClellan has been chafing for a year at the restrictions, ripped away from her work as a top neuroscientist days before from curing Wernicke's aphasia--an illness which strips language from its victims, making words jumbled and meaningless. Then the president's brother is stricken with the illness, and suddenly the Reverend Carl and an assortment of suited men in black SUVs show up at her door with an offer she ultimately cannot refuse: return to work long enough to finish the anti-aphasia serum. Touring her new tightly monitored lab with teammates Lorenzo and Lin confirms that all is not above-board, wreaking havoc with her plan to buy time (and unlimited words) for herself and her daughter by not revealing how close they already are to a cure. Question is, is it really a  cure   that those in power want?

Jean used to be apolitical, never imagining a fringe movement could gain such power. Now she's fighting for the lives of everyone she loves as part of an underground resistance network. Her tension, frustration, despair, rage, and fear are palpable. I could almost hear relentless, urgent music playing in the background as I read. It was particularly haunting to alternate reading this novel with listening to the third Maggie Hope mystery, set primarily in WWII Berlin. In the era of a Trump White House, this cautionary tale should inspire you to exercise your right to vote, speak up, and join protest movements...while you still can.

Do not read this at bedtime because you'll either try to sleep and fail, or keep reading through the night until you finish the book. 

For readers' advisors: story doorway is primary, character and setting are secondary. There is quite a bit of profanity, some sex, and some violence.  There is a lot to discuss, so it's a good choice for book clubs.  It'll probably also be popular with fans of The Handmaid's Tale and Future Home of the Living God .

Many thanks to and the publisher for the ARC I received in exchange for my honest review! I don't usually read dystopia, but this was excellent.

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