The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret AtwoodThe Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood
Published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group on September 29, 2015
Genres: Action & Adventure, Dystopian, Fiction, Humorous, Science Fiction
Pages: 320
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for review consideration.
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration.
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Margaret Atwood puts the human heart to the ultimate test in an utterly brilliant new novel that is as visionary as The Handmaid's Tale and as richly imagined as The Blind Assassin.

Stan and Charmaine are a married couple trying to stay afloat in the midst of an economic and social collapse. Job loss has forced them to live in their car, leaving them vulnerable to roving gangs. They desperately need to turn their situation around—and fast. The Positron Project in the town of Consilience seems to be the answer to their prayers. No one is unemployed and everyone gets a comfortable, clean house to live in . . . for six months out of the year. On alternating months, residents of Consilience must leave their homes and function as inmates in the Positron prison system. Once their month of service in the prison is completed, they can return to their "civilian" homes.

At first, this doesn't seem like too much of a sacrifice to make in order to have a roof over one's head and food to eat. But when Charmaine becomes romantically involved with the man who lives in their house during the months when she and Stan are in the prison, a series of troubling events unfolds, putting Stan's life in danger. With each passing day, Positron looks less like a prayer answered and more like a chilling prophecy fulfilled.

An economic crisis has our main characters living in their car, always on guard for a violent attack and/or theft, and scrounging for food between paychecks. The first part of The Heart Goes Last was real. It’s scary to think how precarious financial security can be. As the novel progressed into a fascinating social experiment, the situation (and the characters) became less realistic and more caricature-like…imagine an updated, near-future twist on A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.

Atwood has created a great mix of creepy speculative/sci-fi/dystopian fiction and humorous satire with this novel. Sometimes I felt she spelled things out for her readers a little too much, not trusting them to read between the lines to grasp the greater messages. But goodness, Atwood knows how to keep her readers laughing, horrified, thinking, and most of all, wanting to read on. Even at its goofiest moments, this novel was thoroughly entertaining.

If you’ve read The Heart Goes Last and want to talk about it, spoilers and all, check out the discussion on The Socratic Salon!


  • You are SO right, Monika; happy to hear I wasn’t the only one chuckling throughout this novel – ha! I’m so glad you enjoyed it and happy to have read it, as well.

  • You’re so right about the beginning – it’s scary because it seems so plausible!

  • I’m still conflicted about this book — I love Atwood, but haven’t heard glowing reviews of this one. But I’m glad to have read yours, definitely didn’t get a sense of the humor from those other comments. So, maybe I just need to give it a try myself!