Sunday, November 27, 2011
In her new novel, Hillary Jordan has managed to channel Nathanael Hawthorne, along with George Orwell or Margaret Atwood, as she sets her tale in the not-too-distant future, when Hannah Payne, a girl raised in a fundamentalist Christian family in Texas wakes up in a cell after having been chromed, the punishment for an abortion. Instead of wearing Hester Prynne's embroidered A on her bosom, she has had her skin turned bright red through an injection process known as "melachroming." After her release, she becomes a pariah, rejected by former friends and family. Of course, her minister, now in a key government position, comes to her defense--but not quite in the way he should.
In the story, Hannah is forced to question everything she believes, everything she's been taught. While some of Jordan's take on God and religion, censorship, sexuality, right and wrong, government is controversial, she doesn't draw any lines, leaving the book as a good catalyst for further discussion about what we believe and why.
While the allusions to The Scarlet Letter are unmistakable and certainly not coincidental, Jordan doesn't let Hawthorne's tale hijack her own. Instead, she ties in enough connections to make a perfect pairing. The story also serves as a cautionary tale about political and philosophical extremism. Looking under the futuristic surface, though, this is a love story, a coming of age story, a family story.