How do I write this review without fanning out? I have written glowing reviews of books I have loved before, but I just finished reading something that was perspective-shifting and I’m not sure I have the words (yes, I know, I always have plenty of words, but still).
Y’all. Why the hell had no one ever told me about The Power? I have been asking for book recommendations left and right, and never, not once, did anyone even whisper the name Naomi Alderman. Y’ALL AIN’T SHIT. And you won’t never be shit if you don’t stop what you’re doing right now and go buy this book. This thing was something else. It was so imaginative, from the premise to the language to the characters to the simple framing of the story (read the “letters” at the beginning and the end to know what I mean). In the wave of feminist literature that is taking to the shelves, this stands out because it truly reimagines what it means to be a woman and what womanhood means to the world.
Sometimes this novel is hilarious, sometimes is is frighteningly realistic, and sometimes it is just existing. The world it fills in is one that we can feel, see, hear, and picture unfolding around us. The people that it depicts are like those we know in our own lives (or see on TV, at least), just in different circumstances. Here, circumstances are everything…and that’s probably the point of the novel. Our lives are this way because of how the chips of nature fell, but if the study of evolution, biology, physics, and history has taught us anything, it has taught us that the only constant in nature is change.
Some feminists, though, may be unhappy about the path this book charts in the unknown terrain of female-supremacy. Would we or wouldn’t we? Is sheer strength the only differentiation between men of now and women of the future? Are women really different…or better? Or can we never truly answer that question after having been tainted by millennia of male domination?
This book makes me think about a recent conversation I had over brunch with some friends about the American Blacks who left the United States after slavery and “repatriated” to Liberia. For all the things suffered by that group of people, they inflicted their own share of ill on those they found already on the land. Were they really just not all that different from the brutalizers who’d sent them scrambling back to the shores of Africa? Or were they just too-apt students of the perverse lack of humanity they observed while enslaved and/or subjugated in the U.S.? Does it really matter to those under their oppressive foot?
Women are often referred to as the fairer sex. I’d like to think that there are some things, outside of sheer physical ability, that make a woman a woman; but Alderman isn’t concerned with what we’d like to believe. That’s why this novel is so stunning.