News and Commentary

PRAISE BE: Margaret Atwood Writing A Sequel To ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Based On The Trump Era

Feminist author Margaret Atwood, who penned the original “Handmaid’s Tale” more than three decades ago as a way of protesting what she believed would be the dawn of a theocratic oligarchy under then-President Ronald Reagan and then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, says she’ll soon release a sequel inspired by the age of Trump.

The book, called “The Testaments,” seems to be less a continuation of the main character, Offred’s, story, and more of a collection of testimonials given by “Handmaids” trapped in (or escaped from) the post-apocalyptic fictional world of Gilead, where fertile women serve as forced surrogates for the barren wives of the country’s despotic administration.

“Dear Readers, everything you’ve ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book,” Atwood wrote on Twitter. “Well, almost everything! The other inspiration is the world we’ve been living in.”

The book is due out in September of 2019.

Atwood never mentions President Donald Trump by name as an inspiration for picking up the tale decades after she left off, but the book is clearly a means to capitalize on the sudden resurgence of interest in the 1985 “feminist classic,” according to the BBC.

In a statement accompanying press materials for the book, the author proclaims that the Handmaid’s Tale has become “a symbol of the movement against [Trump], standing for female empowerment and resistance in the face of misogyny and the rolling back of women’s rights around the world”.

If you’ve somehow missed the “rolling back of women’s rights” you’re not alone; although President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are frequently compared to the “Handmaids Tale” antagonists, few — if any — rights have really been rolled back (though Margaret Atwood probably isn’t a fan of newly-minted Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, or the vast majority of anti-abortion legislation). There’s been a lot of complaining and anxiety about it, however.

An on-screen version of the “Handmaid’s Tale” sparked renewed interest in the book and helped to bring the story front-and-center at the beginning of the Trump administration. Variations of its heroine, played by Elizabeth Moss, have shown up at protest rallies, at Women’s Marches, and at Senate hearings. Moss, who also produces the project, is political but hasn’t commented recently on the relevance of the “Handmaid’s Tale,” perhaps because Moss has met with criticism for being a Scientologist — a member of a religion that is widely reputed to practice strict, totalitarian control over its members, particularly women.

The book won’t pick up precisely where “The Handmaid Tale” ends, but will fill in what happened to Offred at the end of the first installment. Currently, readers only know that Offred was shuffled into the back of a windowless truck, but they couldn’t be sure whether she was being captured and tried for plotting against Gilead, or whether she was being smuggled to freedom.

“The main part of the novel ended with her being taken away in a van by people she is told are members of the underground resistance,” a spokeswoman for Atwood’s publishing house told the BBC. “Readers of the sequel will hope to find out whether she was smuggled to freedom, or taken for imprisonment and punishment.”

The television adaptation, which airs on Hulu, has already explored this part of the novel, but Atwood’s publisher assures readers that the written account will be “different.” It’s not known whether “The Testaments” has already been optioned for it’s own series.