The Auction
by Elci North

"Are you telling me The Auction wasn’t designed to strengthen the American family?"

The Handmaid’s Tale meets 1984 in this timely, captivating, alternately hilarious and infuriating dystopian novel that presents a plausible scenario in a future USA. The right to terminate a pregnancy is a small facet of any woman’s worries, with birth control banned and babies the primary source of government income. The most genetically fit babies command the highest prices at auction, and no couple keeps their biological children after giving birth. Worse, there’s no right to decide when to have a child or even whom to marry. Women are forced to marry their rapists or other unsuitable mates during the thirty-eight-year-long administration of President Boyce, who declares the 1950s and 1960s to be the “Halcyon Days.” In fact, the only television options available to Americans are mid-twentieth-century programs and films that reinforce Boyce’s philosophical gaslighting.

Elci North (a pen name for an author who writes in another genre) has a genius for storytelling and characterization. Each chapter contains the rotating tales of four women whose backstories and voices are quite different despite the commonality of being pregnant. For example, wealthy, independent, and impulsive Angelica dares a gay friend to have sex with her. Millie, a blind woman in a happy marriage, finally conceives after trying for over a decade, but when her husband is hurt in an accident, by law she can’t work or live alone. Jane has just earned a degree in software engineering but becomes pregnant with a classmate after a graduation party. A convict brutally rapes fifteen-year-old Wendy, but rape doesn’t exist in Boyce’s America. North deftly converges the women's lives in a creatively conceived and portrayed pregnancy prison, where the characters have time to think and plot a brilliant revolution that just might work to change the lives of millions of enslaved women.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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