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The Heart Goes Last: A Novel (Positron)
by Margaret Atwood

Published: 2015-09-29
Hardcover : 320 pages
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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 ...
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Introduction

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.

Editorial Review

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Excerpt

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Discussion Questions

1. If you were in Stan and Charmaine’s situation, would you sign up for the Positron Project?

2. What is the significance of Charmaine’s memories of Grandma Win and her cheerful aphorisms?

3. Do you think society could actually break down to the point that it does in the novel? Why or why not?

4. Bright colors figure into many descriptions in the novel, and act as a counterpoint to the drab quality of daily life in Positron. Stan and Charmaine’s lockers are pink and green; the Alternates’ lockers are purple and red; prison uniforms are orange; the knitted bears are blue. Do you think the colors assigned to the various objects are intentional or incidental?

5. How did your attitudes toward Stan and Charmaine change over the course of the novel?

6. The novel’s title has surprising significance. When it was revealed, did you find it a clever twist or macabre and disturbing?

7. Charmaine is placed in an impossible situation when she discovers Stan on the gurney. Did she make the right choice? What would you have done?

8. No one is who he or she seems to be in Consilience. Did the shifting identities of characters make you wonder what their previous lives had been like before they came to Consilience? Would they have been better off “outside the walls”?

9. Could the Positron Project ever be a viable solution to solving societal upheaval?

10. The author is known for embracing emerging technologies, but in this work medical science and robotics are used in sinister and manipulative ways. In this sense is The Heart Goes Last a cautionary tale?

11. “The world is all before you,” says Jocelyn at the close of the novel. How do you think Charmaine will adjust to freedom?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

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Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
by [email protected] (see profile) 08/10/20

Typically dystopian. Simple language. Twisted.

 
  "the heat goes last "by dgtomlin (see profile) 04/13/16

Poor writing, disgusting characters, disgusting story. A sick twist of soft porn.

 
  "The Heart Goes Last"by bayleaf (see profile) 04/04/16

Started out rather interesting, but the further I read, I just thought it to be silly. Difficult to find the social commentary that is so often quite transparent in other Atwood books, which I typically... (read more)

 
  "I kept waiting for the book's plot to become more credible, but for me, it never did."by thewanderingjew (see profile) 10/26/15

The Heart Goes Last, Margaret Atwood, narrators, Cassandra Campbell, Mark Deakins
The premise of the book seems to be that the world has descended into a state of turmoil; all hell has brok
... (read more)

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