“When she woke, she was red. Not flushed, not sunburned, but the solid, declarative red of a stop sign.
She saw her hands first. She held them in front of her eyes, squinting up at them. For a few seconds, shadowed by her eyelashes and backlit by the hard white light emanating from the ceiling, they appeared black. Then her eyes adjusted, and the illusion faded. She examined the backs, the palms. They floated above her, as starkly alien as starfish . . .”
—from When She Woke
So begins Hillary Jordan’s riveting new novel, When She Woke, publishing today. In the haunting first scene, Hannah Payne wakes up on a table in a bare room, covered by nothing but a flimsy paper gown. Her skin is now red and her every movement is broadcasted live on national television. In this grim vision of America’s not-too-distant future, watching “Chromes”–criminals whose skin color has been genetically altered to match the class of their crime–has become a sinister form of entertainment. Hannah is a Red; her crime is murder. The victim, according to the state of Texas, was her unborn child. Hannah is determined to protect the identity of the father, a public figure with whom she shared a fierce and forbidden love.
In her Bellwether Prize-winning debut, Mudbound, Jordan gave us a stunning recreation of America’s past. Now she returns with a haunting and all-too-familiar vision of America’s future in which faith, love, and sexuality have fallen prey to politics. When She Woke is a powerful re-imagining of The Scarlet Letter, set in an America where the line between church and state no longer exists and criminals are no longer imprisoned and rehabilitated, but “chromed” and released back into society to survive as best they can. In Hannah’s attempts to find solace in a hostile world, she unknowingly embarks on a journey of self-discovery that will force her to question her country’s values–and her own. When She Woke is both a timely fable of a society that politicizes the personal and a powerful story of one woman’s struggle to reclaim herself.
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When She Woke has already garnered rave reviews from critics and booksellers alike. So far, it’s been:
- The #1 Indie Next pick for October
- One of Publishers Weekly Top 10 Literary Fiction picks for the fall
- One of O Magazine‘s Fall Reading picks
Check out some of Hillary Jordan’s fantastic reviews below and don’t miss the excerpt at the bottom of this page.
“[A] chilling futuristic novel.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
“[A] provocative, politically charged novel… [Hannah’s] journey to reclaim herself is equally chilling and riveting.”—Family Circle
“Jordan’s elegant prose and thrilling plot make for an engrossing read, while her well-structured examination of our Schadenfreude-hungry culture and the precarious position of women’s rights within it make for a thought-provoking one.” —Shelf Awareness
“When She Woke is one of those books I did not want to put down. I read it in one sitting because the story was so desperate and dark and engrossing … It’s a well-paced literary thriller, very engaging.”–Bookslut
“Christian fundamentalists may shun this novel, but book clubs will devour it, and savvy educators will pair it with Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter. Essential.”—Library Journal
“Jordan blends hot-button issues such as separation of church and state, abortion, and criminal justice with an utterly engrossing story, driven by a heroine as layered and magnetic as Hester Prynne herself, and reminiscent, too, of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (1985). Absolutely a must-read.”—Booklist, starred review