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The Heart Goes Last
Cover of The Heart Goes Last
The Heart Goes Last
Borrow Borrow
From the bestselling author of The Handmaid's Tale and The Testamentsin the gated community of Consilience, residents who sign a contract will get a job and a lovely house for six months of the year ... if they serve as inmates in the Positron prison system for the alternate months.

Stan and Charmaine, a young urban couple, have been hit by job loss and bankruptcy in the midst of nationwide economic collapse. Forced to live in their third-hand Honda, where they are vulnerable to roving gangs, they think the gated community of Consilience may be the answer to their prayers. At first, this seems worth it: they will have a roof over their heads and food on the table. But when a series of troubling events unfolds, Positron begins to look less like a prayer answered and more like a chilling prophecy fulfilled. 

The Heart Goes Last is a vivid, urgent vision of development and decay, freedom and surveillance, struggle and hope—and the timeless workings of the human heart.
From the bestselling author of The Handmaid's Tale and The Testamentsin the gated community of Consilience, residents who sign a contract will get a job and a lovely house for six months of the year ... if they serve as inmates in the Positron prison system for the alternate months.

Stan and Charmaine, a young urban couple, have been hit by job loss and bankruptcy in the midst of nationwide economic collapse. Forced to live in their third-hand Honda, where they are vulnerable to roving gangs, they think the gated community of Consilience may be the answer to their prayers. At first, this seems worth it: they will have a roof over their heads and food on the table. But when a series of troubling events unfolds, Positron begins to look less like a prayer answered and more like a chilling prophecy fulfilled. 

The Heart Goes Last is a vivid, urgent vision of development and decay, freedom and surveillance, struggle and hope—and the timeless workings of the human heart.
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  • From the book CRAMPED

    Sleeping in the car is cramped. Being a third-hand Honda, it’s no palace to begin with. If it was a van they’d have more room, but fat chance of affording one of those, even back when they thought they had money. Stan says they’re lucky to have any kind of a car at all, which is true, but their luckiness doesn’t make the car any bigger.

    Charmaine feels that Stan ought to sleep in the back because he needs more space—it would only be fair, he’s larger—but he has to be in the front in order to drive them away fast in an emergency. He doesn’t trust Charmaine’s ability to function under those circumstances: he says she’d be too busy screaming to drive. So Charmaine can have the more spacious back, though even so she has to curl up like a snail because she can’t exactly stretch out.

    They keep the windows mostly closed because of the mosquitoes and the gangs and the solitary vandals. The solitaries don’t usually have guns or knives—if they have those kinds of weapons you have to get out of there triple fast—but they’re more likely to be bat-shit crazy, and a crazy person with a piece of metal or a rock or even a high-heeled shoe can do a lot of damage. They’ll think you’re a demon or the undead or a vampire whore, and no kind of reasonable thing you might do to calm them down will cancel out that opinion. The best thing with crazy people, Grandma Win used to say—the only thing, really—is to be somewhere else.

    With the windows shut except for a crack at the top, the air gets dead and supersaturated with their own smells. There aren’t many places where they can grab a shower or wash their clothes, and that makes Stan irritable. It makes Charmaine irritable too, but she tries her best to stamp on that feeling and look on the bright side, because what’s the use of complaining?

    What’s the use of anything? she often thinks. But what’s the use of even thinking What’s the use? So instead she says, “Honey, let’s just cheer up!”

    “Why?” Stan might say. “Give me one good fucking reason to cheer the fuck up.” Or he might say, “Honey, just shut it!” mimicking her light, positive tone, which is mean of him. He can lean to the mean when he’s irritated, but he’s a good man underneath. Most people are good underneath if they have a chance to show their goodness: Charmaine is determined to keep on believing that. A shower is a help for the showing of the goodness in a person, because, as Grandma Win was in the habit of saying, Cleanliness is next to godliness and godliness means goodliness.

    That was among the other things she might say, such as Your mother didn’t kill herself, that was just talk. Your daddy did the best he could but he had a lot to put up with and it got too much. You should try hard to forget those other things, because a man’s not accountable when he’s had too much to drink. And then she would say, Let’s make popcorn!

    And they would make the popcorn, and Grandma Win would say, Don’t look out the window, sugar pie, you don’t want to see what they’re doing out there. It isn’t nice. They yell because they want to. It’s self-expression. Sit here by me. It all worked out for the best, because look, here you are and we’re happy and safe now!

    That didn’t last, though. The happiness. The safeness. The now.



    WHERE?

    Stan twists in the front seat, trying to get comfortable. Not much fucking chance of that. So what can he do? Where can they turn? There’s no safe...
About the Author-
  • MARGARET ATWOOD, whose work has been published in thirty-five countries, is the author of more than forty books of fiction, poetry, and critical essays. In addition to The Handmaid's Tale, her novels include Cat's Eye, short-listed for the 1989 Booker Prize; Alias Grace, which won the Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy; The Blind Assassin, winner of the 2000 Booker Prize; Oryx and Crake, short-listed for the 2003 Man Booker Prize; The Year of the Flood; and her most recent, MaddAddam.She is the recipient of the Los Angeles Times Innovator's Award, and lives in Toronto with the writer Graeme Gibson.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from June 29, 2015
    In the dystopian landscape of the unflappable Atwood’s (Stone Mattress) latest novel, there are “not enough jobs, and too many people,” which drives married couple Stan and Charmaine to become interested in the Positron Project, a community that purports to have achieved
    harmony. There is a catch, as Positron leader Ed explains: citizens are required to share their home with other couples, alternating each month between time in prison and time at home. It’s an odd arrangement, but one that temporarily satisfies Charmaine and Stan—until they each fall in love with the alternates they’re supposed to never see; their infatuations put the entire Positron arrangement into question. Atwood is fond of intricate plot work, and the novel takes a long time to set up the action, but once it hits the last third, it gains an unstoppable momentum. The novel is full of sly moments of peripeteia and lots of sex, which play alongside larger ideas about the hidden monsters lurking in facile totalitarianism, and, as implied by the title, the ability of the heart to keep fighting despite long odds.

  • Kirkus

    July 15, 2015
    Dystopian cliches are played as farce in this nasty tale. Comparisons to Atwood's earlier work, an oeuvre of more than 40 volumes that includes the Man Booker Prize winner The Blind Assassin; the early feminist/dystopian classic The Handmaid's Tale; the pioneering mean-girls novel Cat's Eye; and the post-apocalyptic trilogy Oryx and Crake (2003), The Year of the Flood (2009), and Maddaddam (2013), are best avoided here. This slapped-together pastiche tells the story of Stan and Charmaine, a doltish young couple who have lost everything in some vague "financial-crash business-wrecking meltdown" and are now living in their car, hungry and on the run from rapists and other outlaws. In desperation, they eagerly sign up to live in a settlement called the Positron Project. Here, people alternate months between performing slave labor in a sex-segregated jail and living with their partners in a sterile suburban town called Consilience. The project's slogan is "CONSILIENCE = CONS+RESILIENCE. DO TIME NOW, BUY TIME FOR OUR FUTURE!"-and it's never going to make more sense than that. To an officially sanctioned soundtrack of Doris Day and Bing Crosby, Stan and Charmaine go about their appointed tasks, which include his providing poultry for incarcerated men to have sex with and her murdering people by injection. When the doll-like, almost subhuman Charmaine inexplicably throws herself into a tawdry affair with another man and Stan is reassigned to a sex-robot project ("As an on-demand sexual experience, it's said to be better than the bonk-a-chicken racket..."), the weak premises of the plot collapse, burying its characters in the rubble. Atwood is noted for satiric humor, but with the misanthropy of this book equaled by its misogyny, with women repeatedly melting "like toffee" and treating each other like "something that got stuck on their shoe" and "puppy throw-up," it's just not funny. The end of the novel, set in an "Elvisorium" full of gay Elvis impersonators in Las Vegas, will leave the few who have gotten that far completely bewildered. As one of a small group of authors who won literary credibility for dystopian fiction, Atwood has taught her readers to expect better.

    COPYRIGHT(2015) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from August 1, 2015
    Formerly well-employed homeowners, Charmaine and Stan are now living in their cramped, smelly car, and they're lucky. After the whole system fell to pieces, most Americans are without work, shelter, or transportation, and many are willing to kill for a vehicle. As Stan becomes increasingly frantic, his rage stoked by the cushiness of his outlaw brother's life, Charmaine remains chirpy and upbeat, especially when she sees an ad for the Positron Project. She's sure it's the perfect solution, and readers will sense that they're in for some delectably caustic dystopian fiction. Sure enough, after the couple is accepted into Positron's maximum-security community, they learn that they'll spend one month in their comfortable little home, then one month separately incarcerated, working at assigned jobs, while another couple lives in the house. This lulling, numbing routine keeps them well-fed, under constant surveillance, and enslaved. So, naturally, everything goes devilishly awry. Ever-inventive, astutely observant, and drolly ironic, Atwood (Stone Mattress, 2014) unfurls a riotous plot of corporate rule, erotic mayhem, sexbots, brain-washing, murder, and Elvis and Marilyn impersonators. Her bristling characters range from right-on caricatures to unpredictably complicated individuals, especially the unnerving Charmaine. Atwood's ribald carnival of crazy deftly examines fear and the temptation to trade the confusion of choice and freedom for security, whatever the cost. This laser-sharp, hilariously campy, and swiftly flowing satire delves deeply into our desires, vices, biases, and contradictions, bringing fresh, incisive comedy to the rising tide of postapocalyptic fictionincluding, most recently, The Subprimes (2015) and The Blondes (2015)in which Atwood has long been a clarion voice. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Atwood's prominence ensures big interest, and promotional efforts will showcase the polish, dark humor, and quicksilver brilliance of her latest provoking novel.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2015, American Library Association.)

  • Library Journal

    April 1, 2015

    In her first stand-alone novel since the Man Booker Prize-winning The Blind Assassin, published in 2000, Atwood draws on the same almost-here dystopia as her online Positron stories. Charmaine and Stan are barely getting by when they answer an ad for Consilience, a social experiment that allows them a comfortable home of their own in suburbia. The one little hitch is that every other month they must spend time in a prison cell. Classic Atwood.

    Copyright 2015 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Mat Johnson, New York Times Book Review "Thrilling, sometimes comic, often absurd and entirely engaging, spinning sins into the territory of Elvis-themed escorts, stuffed-animal carnality and customizable sexbots ... What keeps The Heart Goes Last fresh, as with the rest of Atwood's recent work, is that while it revisits earlier themes of her oeuvre, it never replicates. Rather, it reads like an exploration continued, with new surprises, both narratively and thematically, to be discovered ... Margaret Atwood has become something nearly as fantastical as one of her storytelling subjects: a living legend who continues to remain fresh and innovative on the page."
  • The New Yorker "[The Heart Goes Last] affords an arresting perspective on the confluence of information, freedom, and security in the modern age."
  • Boston Globe "This is quintessential Atwood territory, a bleak dystopian landscape littered with shady types who engage in twisted sexual manipulation and scientific engineering reminiscent of The Handmaid's Tale and Oryx and Crake ... The writing here is so persuasive, so crisp, that it seeps under your skin ... [This] fast-paced novel is hard to put down when it comes screaming to its clever and terrifying conclusion."
  • Miami Herald "The Heart Goes Last rides a wave of dark energy. It's rare apocalyptic entertainment ... Not only does Atwood sketch out an all-too-possible future but she also looks to the past, tapping into archetypes from fairy tales and myth, giving the novel a resonance beyond satire. Meanwhile, she ratchets up the tension and gleefully knocks down the fictive world she created."
  • Huffington Post "A gripping, psychologically acute portrayal of our own future gone totally wrong, and the eternal constant of flawed humanity."
  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch "Another Atwood classic."
  • The Guardian "At first a classic Atwood dystopia, rationally imagined and developed, [The Heart Goes Last] relaxes suddenly into a kind of surrealist adventure. The satirical impulse foregrounds itself. Narrative drive ramps up ... Atwood allows her sense of the absurd its full elbow room; her cheerfully caustic contempt--bestowed even-handedly on contemporary economics, retro culture, and the social and neurological determination of identity--goes unrestrained ... Jubilant comedy of errors, bizarre bedroom farce, SF prison-break thriller, psychedelic 60s crime caper: The Heart Goes Last scampers in and out of all of these genres, pausing only to quote Milton on the loss of Eden or Shakespeare on weddings. Meanwhile, it performs a hard-eyed autopsy on themes of impersonation and self-impersonation, revealing so many layers of contemporary deception and self-deception that we don't know whether to laugh or cry."
  • London Evening Standard "[The Heart Goes Last] opens with an evocation of sub-prime poverty so hopeless, so crushing, and yet so engrossing that within 10 pages you don't know whether to weep or applaud ... You never lose the eerie feeling that each feature of this world could rematerialise in our own. It's what makes her fiction the opposite of the escapism of the geek genres. It's the lack of an escape route that shapes the predicaments of Atwood's characters. That and an imagination without equal."
  • Booklist, starred review "Ever-inventive, astutely observant, and drolly ironic, Atwood unfurls a riotous plot of corporate rule, erotic mayhem, sexbots, brain-washing, murder, and Elvis and Marilyn impersonators. Her bristling characters range from right-on caricatures to unpredictably complicated individuals, especially the unnerving Charmaine. Atwood's ribald carnival of crazy deftly examines fear and the temptation to trade the confusion of choice and freedom for security, whatever the cost. This laser-sharp, hilariously campy, and swiftly flowing satire delves deeply into our desires, vices, biases, and contradictions, bringing fresh, incisive comedy to the rising tide of postapocalyptic fiction in which Atwood has long been a clarion voice."
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The Heart Goes Last
Margaret Atwood
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