Leni Zumas “Red Clocks” is a book about cannots. How a woman cannot be published because she’s not a man. How a woman cannot finish her law degree because she became a mother. How a woman cannot become a parent because she’s not married. How a woman cannot speak about sexual or physical abuse because no one would believe her. And “how many horrors are legitimated in public daylight against the will of most of the people.”
Limiting a woman’s right to choose even further is the 28th Amendment of the United States, also known as the Personhood Amendment, which overturned Roe v. Wade, making it absolutely illegal for anyone to have an abortion.
In Zumas’ dystopian near-future, anyone caught having or aiding in an abortion would legally be tried for murder. And anyone attempting to flee to Canada to terminate an unwanted pregnancy would be returned to the United States and promptly arrested.
Because abortions are a federal crime under this Personhood Amendment, the theory was that more children would be available for adoption and that there would be no need for in-vitro fertilization.
Public Law 116-72, also known as Every Child Needs Two, would prohibit single parents from adopting a child; only married couples would be permitted to legally adopt.
To show what this world looks like, Zumas braids the narratives of four unhappy woman living in the quiet fishing and whaling village of Newville, Ore.
Roberta “Ro” Stephens is a 40-something-year-old single history teacher, list maker and researcher who desperately wants to raise a child of her own despite not being able to have any.
Stay-at-home mom Susan Korsmos is trapped in a loveless marriage for the sake of her two children. She desperately wants leave her lazy husband Didier, but thinking of her children bouncing between two single parents guilts her in staying.
Matilda “Mattie” Quarles is sixteen and pregnant. Mattie desperately wants to end the clump of cells growing inside her because she knows what it’s like to be adopted and to spend every day wondering who her biological mother is. She doesn’t want her child wondering who her real mother was and why his or her mother didn’t keep her.
And Mattie’s birth mother, Gin Percival, is a hermit and suspected witch doctor who illegally heals women with herbal remedies.
These women tell you what it’s like to be a woman living in a male-dominated world — to constantly live in doubt and fear exacerbated by laws created by men. It’s time that we listened to them.