My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Stavia has lived in Women’s Country for her entire life & as she sends her own son off to her town’s garrison to serve as a soldier for life, she is reminded of her own fateful choices that lead to this momentous day. As the story cuts backward & forward through time in her musings, readers will uncover the daily workings of Women’s Country, the choices humanity has made in order to survive post-nuclear destruction, & how classic Greek myths have come to serve as reminders for why women must always keep watch at the walls that separate them from the men.
This novel came to me as a wonderful gift from a friend of mine & I was fortunate enough to read it before Sheri Tepper died this year. First, Tepper’s interest in how women can preserve their autonomy & their reproductive rights are front & center to the novel’s story, but the nuances of how this matriarchal society has developed unwind patiently through the entire novel. Even with this focus on the female characters, the male dueteragonist Chernon invokes sympathy as well, with his struggle to understand the hierarchies & mores of the patriarchal warrior society he’s chosen to serve. Using the myths about the invasion of Troy & its downfall as a background help hint at where our characters are headed but also manage to disorient readers as well. (For example, the play The Trojan Women is put on every year at festival, but is played as a complete farce. Wrap your mind around that one.) As I kept reading, I found myself completely swept up in the story & was near tears myself when I arrived at the last page. I recommend Women’s Country for those who love dystopian fiction but are weary of the teenage love triangles that arise in current stories. Tepper’s book sees those lovelorn choices & explores them to a mature, and somewhat bitter, end.