Thursday, February 27, 2014

Strong is Sexy Heroine of the Week: Kate, Sarah, Patrice

Book: Women's Work
Author: Kari Aguila
Heroine: Kate, Sarah, Patrice

About 50 years in the future, there is a revival of 'traditional' gender roles. Men in power decide things would be better if women revert to subservient roles -- women are removed from political positions, new laws are passed that limit the health care women can get, clothes women can wear, jobs women can do, etc. At first glance, this feels far fetched, but one need only look at the millions of girls and women in other parts of our real world to see that it is not.

Then a global war breaks out which devastates the planet, destroys the infrastructure, and kills hundreds of millions of people. Because women were not allowed in the military, most of the dead are men. Four years into the Last War, women decide it is up to them to stop it, and take control by both force and persuasion. They design new laws and new governments with women in charge. Under the banner of peace and equality,women keep the men in their neighborhoods close to home and under tight supervision, and are terrified of the small groups of men that roam the country, viciously indicating that the pendulum may have swung too far.

Women's Work is full of strong women, with a range of characters that will remind readers of mothers, sisters and friends they have respected and loved. The main character, Kate, is a widowed mother of three struggling to survive in a post-war landscape. She has learned to hunt for, grow, and preserve the food upon which her family and her neighborhood depend. Through clever engineering and persistence, she has designed and built simple machines to make her work easier. She is devoted to her children, and loves them courageously. And most importantly, she is beginning to see that the rules of their new society might not be as perfect as they had hoped. When a strange man shows up on her porch one night, gaunt and filthy, Kate is forced to begin a journey that will change her life forever.

Kate's neighbors and friends include Sarah, the teacher, who shows her strength through thoughtful insights into what it means to love a man and be loved in return; Iris, the leader, whose intelligence, kindness and courage saved the whole neighborhood during the darkest times; and even Patrice, who has struggled with her demons for years and, though we cannot agree with her decisions at times, we can understand the fear and anger behind them.

“So, when most of the men were dead, women saw their chance to take over?” 

Kate searches her son’s eyes as he asks this. “Not take over,” she says. “Fix things.”

It wasn’t hard to justify what the women had done since the end of the Last War. They rebuilt their bombed-out neighborhoods as best they could and worked to established peace and gender equality. But small groups of men roam the country, viciously indicating that the pendulum may have swung too far. When a bedraggled man shows up on Kate’s doorstep one night, will she risk everything to help him? Does he deserve her help? 

Women’s Work is set in a dystopic world in the Pacific Northwest, where women struggle to survive through sustenance farming, clever engineering, and a deeply rooted sisterhood. In this suspenseful thriller, Kate and her family are asked to let go of their anger and fear on a journey to forgiveness and understanding. It is a compelling story that challenges all of us to question traditional gender roles and to confront the fragility of love.

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