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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Vox: A Novel

Vox by Christina Dalcher was a hot "get" at Book Expo this year, and while I'm hot and cold on dystopia, I thought I would give it a shot. And whoooooaaa -- am I ever glad I did.

"Gripping" is the best word I can think to describe this book. Jean is a cognitive neurolinguist -- or, at least, she was before. Before the Pure Movement, which seeks to silence women and go back to the good ol' days of yore when women worked in the home caring for their families and the men made the money. In order to achieve full submission, women not only had to leave their jobs, but they must also wear counters on their wrists that count the number of alloted words they use per day, typically 100. After that, they are shocked at increasingly high rates a la Milgram. Go ahead and insert your shudder here.

As I'm sure you can imagine, this doesn't go over well with everyone (although you won't be surprised to hear that it works perfectly with many women who love the idea of a docile and obedient life -- unfortunately, I know some of those in real life). Jean is one of those. However, when she is approached by the leader of the movement to go back to work in order to find a cure for the president's brother whose issue falls squarely into Jean's research, she ends up using it to her advantage to fight back. It may cost her everything she holds dear, but what is the point of freedom if you can't taste it?

I ate this book in almost one sitting. I started reading it on a plane ride, and I couldn't put it down when we got to our destination. It's not dystopia really, because it takes place in present day, but it is dystopia in the strict definition. I was full-on captivated by everything, from the first-person narrator, Jean, and her Italian fire and her both love and hate for her docile husband and her asshole teenage son who is swept up in the movement. She was a gripping character and one that I absolutely adored. Her story was one that was frightening but realistic, and it reminded me of The Handmaid's Tale in it's sense of male governance over the female body. She was everything that I love in a female protagonist, and so my hat is off to Dalcher in her ability to craft truly incredible characters.

Now onto the story. Holy moly, this was something. I always hope that these things are far-fetched, but the underlying current of feelings towards women is alive and well. There is a moment where Jean is driving home from work and a man in the car next to her tries to get her attention. When she rolls down her window, he spits into her car. Something similar happened to me more than a decade ago. I was driving down the road when a man whipped out a turn in front of me from a shopping center. I hit the horn while I slammed on my brakes, and this caused the man to lose it. He worked his car until he was next to me and, even with my windows close, he called me cunt and a whore over and over and over again, saying he was going to kill me. Isn't it odd how nothing has really changed? That toxic masculinity has not gone away, and this novel exemplifies it.

I was blown away by this book and I cannot recommend it enough. It is well worth you devouring the story and ripping into it from beginning to end this summer. It will anger you, devastate you, and give you hope in the resistance. You never know who is fighting back within their means. 

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