Woman on the Edge of Time

Woman on the Edge of Time

A Novel

Book - 2016
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Onetime college girl, loving mother, pickpocket, and unmarried mourning wife Consuelo Ramos, imprisoned in a New York mental hospital for assaulting a pimp, hovers between a future of life dominant and an endless present of neuroelectric experimentation.
Publisher: New York : Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, 2016
Edition: 2016 Ballantine Books Trade Paperback Edition
ISBN: 9780449000946
044900094X
Branch Call Number: PIE
Characteristics: xi, 417 pages ; 21 cm

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mayog
Feb 21, 2019

Phew. This was a tough read... painful and ultimately a bit depressing. The story of Consuela Ramos moves in turn between a utopian second- wave feminist future utopia and the hell of a mental asylum for the poor and indigent.

The utopian imagination was powerful. The problem of pronouns and gender identification was addressed as was parenting with every child having three co-mothers (coms), and a fluid, non-grasping vision of ownership which affected everything from luxury goods to human sexual coupling. Late 20th century society was drawn in stark relief to this.

It would be easy, reading the end of the novel, to despair. After all, the ending does not result in the emancipation of the protagonist. At the same time, the novel proposes that fighting matters, even if you seem to lose. It also raises ethical questions about violence and its appropriate use for self- defense. And, underlying the entire novel is the question: what truly is madness.

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PearlyBaker
Jun 11, 2017

What a great concept piece especially since I work in the mental health profession and love this genre which got turned on it's back with the dystopian present. I look around the rooms and streets and stores, work, home and libraries and there is no one left to talk to because everyone is distracted by the augmented reality of their iPhones and the million other distractions that take us away from the ugly reality that skating on the thin ice of modern life can be almost unbearable at times. I hate to criticize but I have a real long queue of books which I might have to pause entirely for a year if all goes well, so I would appreciate a hint of concision and editing. And I found Consuela to be cloying, argumentative and whiny with the future world or delusions whichever it was.

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udthum
Nov 03, 2016

I read Woman on the Edge of Time immediately after finishing Parable of the Sower and I am following a reading list of recommendations of an anarchist friend of mine. She teaches a class about utopias and distopias and how they influence our collective imagination for a better world. Although, Woman on the Edge of Time contrasts the life of a psychiatric patient with life in a utopian future, Marge Piercy makes the overwhelming struggles of Connie the psychiatric patient much more engaging than her visits to a left-wing progressive's dream future.

Connie Camacho Ramos was forcefully and unjustly admitted to a mental institution and throughout the book she was able to mentally visit a utopian world called Mattapoisett. Mattapoisett is a place I would love to live, gender and sexuality is very fluid, children have school out in the field- learning through experience, everyone is extremely conscientious of their actions on the environment, just about everything is communally owned, decisions are made through consensus based discussion, work is divided so each person plays a variety of roles, and human relationships are cherished. It reminded me of how my co-op friends and I might imagine a perfect world.

(Piercy's vision, which I would love to live in, also got me to consider how someone from the opposite political viewpoint might imagine a utopia. And I assume it would involve biblical idealogies coming to life. So their world would have angels, maybe a messianic benevolent ruler, the souls of departed people would come back from the dead, and there would be a lot of conformity.)

As much as I loved the world Piercy created I did not find the narrative of Connie in this world to be very compelling. Most of the time Connie was in Mattapoisett it consisted of Luciente, her guide from the future, explaining how her community works. There was very little narrative except for that of exploring and explaining.

On the other hand, Connie's struggle to be released from the mental hospital was riveting. Piercy did an excellent job demonstrating how little power Connie had and that her only strategy for release was to play-along. Also the experimental treatment introduced towards the end of the book was not only creepy but was a very salient metaphor.

I excuse some of the bland writing in Woman at the Edge of Time because it was science fiction. Despite that it did allow me to envision a world I would love to be in and remind me our minds can be very liberating.

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swbooker
Dec 14, 2013

This book is on my all-time great books to read and reread list. When I was in college, an anthro professor said when she finished it she was so sad that there wasn't a society like the one in the book to live in. I agree tremendously! Well worth your time...

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Emmanuel1987
Jan 29, 2012

Seems like a good read :)

Notices

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mayog
Feb 21, 2019

Frightening or Intense Scenes: The opening of the book includes a great deal of violence. So do some scenes toward the end

m
mayog
Feb 21, 2019

Sexual Content: One of the main characters works as a prostitute. Several of the characters engage in consensual non-married sexual activity.

m
mayog
Feb 21, 2019

Violence: The very first chapter is disturbingly violent and there are later scenes of war. The ending may include murder, although that is not specified.

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mayog
Feb 21, 2019

Only in us do the dead live. Water flows downhill through us. The sun cools in our bones. We are joined with all living in one singing web of energy. In us live the dead who made us. In us live the children unborn. Breathing each other’s air, drinking each other’s water, eating each other’s flesh, we grow like a tree from the earth.

m
mayog
Feb 21, 2019

Whoever owned this place, these cities, whoever owned those glittering glassy office buildings in midtown filled with the purr of money turning over, those refineries over the river in Jersey with their flames licking the air, they gave nothing back. They took and took and left their garbage choking the air, the river, the sea itself. Choking her. A life of garbage. Human garbage. She had had too little of what her body needed and too little of what her soul could imagine. She had been able to do little in the years of her life, and that little had been ill paid or punished. The rest was garbage.

m
mayog
Feb 21, 2019

Suddenly she thought that these men believed feeling itself a disease, something to be cut out like a rotten appendix. Cold, calculating, ambitious, believing themselves rational and superior, they chased the crouching female animal through the brain with a scalpel. From an early age she had been told that what she felt was unreal and didn’t matter. Now they were about to place in her something that would rule her feelings like a thermostat

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mayog
Feb 21, 2019

mayog thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

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