by Dalcher, Christina

Marginalized in a near-future America where the government limits women to no more than 100 spoken words daily before outlawing women's education and employment altogether, a former doctor resolves to be heard for the sake of her daughter.

Christina Dalcher earned her doctorate in theoretical linguistics from Georgetown University. She specializes in the phonetics of sound change in Italian and British dialects and has taught at several universities.

Her short stories and flash fiction appear in more than one hundred journals worldwide. Recognition includes the Bath Flash Award short list, nominations for the Pushcart Prize, and multiple other awards. She lives in Norfolk, Virginia, with her husband.

Language and women's facility with it are the focal points of linguist Dalcher's chilling dystopian tale and first novel. Jean McClellan and her family live in a U.S. taken over by religious extremists who have forced the female population to wear electroshock bracelets that deliver painful charges to any woman who speaks over 100 words a day. Jean, a scientist whose research centered around a neurological condition that causes aphasia, is forced to watch in virtual silence as her three sons become indoctrinated and her six-year-old daughter tries to speak as little as possible. Jean's marriage grows strained as her husband goes along with the new regime. She is then offered a potential respite when government officials come to her for help after the president's brother is diagnosed with the very condition for which she had been seeking a cure before women were forbidden to work. With its focus on the vitality of communication and human interactions, Dalcher's tale is a fresh and terrifying contribution to the burgeoning subgenre about women-focused dystopias spearheaded by Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

In the not-too-distant future, American women and girls are allowed a quota of 100 spoken words per day, after which each syllable triggers electrocution via wrist band. Narrator Dr. Jean McClellan, wife and mother of four, is a cognitive linguist at the top of her field—or she was, until the government was hijacked by fundamentalists led by Reverend Carl, architect of the patriarchal Pure Movement and close adviser to the president. Under Reverend Carl's direction, women are no longer allowed to hold jobs or bank accounts, study biology or physics, or, most punishingly, to speak more than 100 words a day, read, or write. When the president's influential older brother is in an accident and damages his Wernicke's area—the part of the brain that controls language—Jean is temporarily called out of forced retirement (and silence) to resume work on a cure. Along for the ride is Lorenzo, Jean's smoldering Italian colleague—and erstwhile lover. In flashbacks, Jackie, Jean's radical grad school roommate, warns her about the rising tide of fundamentalism and condemns her unwillingness to engage. There are welcome glimmers of insight in the narrative, such as when one black character reminds Jean of the importance of intersectional feminism: "Look, I don't mean to be unkind, but you white gals, all you're worried about is, well, all you're worried about is you white gals." Like Jean, first-time novelist Dalcher has a background in linguistics, and the story sometimes gets bogged down in technical jargon, including multiple explanations of the function of an MRI. The ending of the novel, while surprising, is rushed, unearned, and the least convincing part of a story that continually challenges the reader's suspension of disbelief. The oppression of women is an ever relevant topic. Dalcher's premise is tantalizing, but the execution of her thought experiment—what happens when women's voices are taken, in the most literal sense? & #8212; quickly devolves into the stuff of workaday thrillers. Copyright Kirkus 2018 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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