Saturday, July 10, 2010

Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):   After climate change, on the north shore of Unlake Superior, a dystopian world is divided between those who live inside the wall, and those, like sixteen-year-old midwife Gaia Stone, who live outside. It’s Gaia’s job to “advance” a quota of infants from poverty into the walled Enclave, until the night one agonized mother objects, and Gaia’s parents are arrested.  Badly scarred since childhood, Gaia is a strong, resourceful loner who begins to question her society. As Gaia’s efforts to save her parents take her within the wall, she herself is arrested and imprisoned.

And here's what I thought:   From this little summary, you probably already have the idea that this takes place in our world, but somewhere in the future (seems like about 300 years).    We're now in the "cool age",  and it's safe to say that people are dealing with the repercussions of using too much oil, and abusing the environment's resources.   This is a theme throughout this story, as it seems that the people outside the wall are used to living relatively simply, and the people inside the wall have access to more technology.  People from outside the wall have the impression (from the "tvaltar") that life inside the wall is really great, and everyone is young and beautiful --- but the reality is, the people who live inside the Enclave, are having some serious issues.  The whole practice of midwives "advancing" babies to the Enclave is to solve some genetic issues that have started to crop up.   So, there's also a theme in this book about how demanding physical perfection isn't always a good idea.   The author uses the story to develop these ideas, and make the reader think (at least, it made me think).

I thought the characters were pretty well-developed; Gaia's smart and determined, and when she comes into contact with authories inside the Enclave, she doesn't fold under the pressure.   The wary friendship that she starts to develop with Capt. Grey is interesting, and well-written.  Even the supporting characters are well-rounded, making the interactions between all of them feel realistic.   I did have moments of recalling Margaret Atwood's Handmaid's Tale a few times in this story, though.  For example, the whole idea of the midwives "advancing" the babies to other parents, and when Gaia sees women inside the Enclave dressed entirely in red.   Atwood's books Oryx and Crake, and The Year of the Flood, also focus on ideas of abusing the environment and genetics.  Overall, I really enjoyed this story and found it a good read that made me think.  I didn't feel like O'Brien was beating me over the head with her opinions, but instead, presented ideas and opinions through Gaia (or other characters), so that there was more than one view on a subject, such as the practice of "advancing" newborns.    I found this is a quick-paced, well-written story.


Amanda Makepeace said...

Interesting. I hadn't give this book much thought but maybe I will see if I can hunt down a copy.

Anonymous said...

This sounds great! I love dystopian fiction, so this sounds right up my alley.

Btw, I LOVE your picture of the cemetery. I love cemeteries, and fall is my favorite season :)

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