Author: Christina Dalcher
Publication Date: August 21, 2018
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Set in an America where half the population has been silenced, VOX is the harrowing, unforgettable story of what one woman will do to protect herself and her daughter. On the day the government decrees that women are no longer allowed more than 100 words daily, Dr. Jean McClellan is in denial—this can’t happen here. Not in America. Not to her.
This is just the beginning.Soon women can no longer hold jobs. Girls are no longer taught to read or write. Females no longer have a voice. Before, the average person spoke sixteen thousand words a day, but now women only have one hundred to make themselves heard. But this is not the end. For herself, her daughter, and every woman silenced, Jean will reclaim her voice.
Never has a book enraged me more that Vox. Set in the United States in a not-so-unfamiliar political climate, women’s voices have been forcible silenced and they have been removed from their jobs, their schools, and their positions in the community, to live at home, subservient to their husbands and children, their male children in particular. By whom? They have been silenced by the action and inaction of the men within their own homes and communities. Lead by a fanatical religious leader, the government reformed the education system, the law, and the structure of the familial home so that all women are stripped of their power and their voices. Jean was a doctor of neurolinguistics before her autonomy was taken away from her. In this story, she is given a temporary reprieve from her silence, and this might be her only opportunity to free herself and her daughter from their prison.
In the story, there is one key moment where a bumper sticker reads, “Make America Pure Again.” Already this book has taken a stance on the treatment of women within America, but it so distinctly draws a connection between the current political state of the USA with this story, that the book almost serves as a warning to stay awake, and stay alert. As the #metoo movement has risen up and men in power seek to silence women within our own world as they speak out for justice and for freedom, Vox could not be more timely. Yes, it is a work of fiction, however, it’s also an intricate political commentary on the turbulence, misogyny, and racism that has been characteristic of the Trump administration thus far.
The beginning of this book is profound. I was torn in two right from page one. Dalcher starts of strong and paints a vivid picture of her dystopia. Her world building is strong and her story is instantly all-encompassing. She writes with a frenzy, building intensity right from the get go. This book has no down moments and I devoured it in 2 days. Words and titles are incredibly important throughout this book, as is who uses those words. The women wear a “bracelet” as the men so fondly call it, but to the women, they are “counters”. The reminder of calling it a “counter” is worth the sacrifice of one word to remind men that it is not a beautiful trinket, but a limiting prison sentence. Likewise, if a woman like Jean is called by a man “Mrs.” instead of “Dr.,” or “Miss” instead of “Ms.,” it is a verbal stripping of her status and power, an instant move to assert dominance and reduce the woman’s position. It is a stark refusal to accept her accreditation and chosen method of address, indicating an incredible lack of respect.
While this story started out great, the final third of the book seemed very rushed to me, almost as if it wasn’t given the attention it deserves in order to rush it out when it would be most timely. So much time is spent detailing the horrors of this new world, but the climax and resolution are not cathartic nor completely satisfying. It left me feeling disappointed in the end. The story leading up to the end is so strong, that to end on a weaker note took the intensity out of things a bit. When you pack a strong punch in the beginning and middle, you really need to end with that same kind of momentum. This book could have gone from great to stellar if just a smidgen more of attention had been paid to the final few chapters.
Still, this book is relevant, powerful, and moving, so I hope you’ll read it too. And give it to your ladies to read. And tell them to give it to their ladies. Because this book, if nothing else, is a reminder that misogyny continues to exist in the world, and women still struggle to gain ground to be heard and respected. Dalcher reminds us to continue to fight for equality and to not let ourselves be passive in the fight for equality.