Red Clocks imagines an America in which every embryo is granted rights of life, liberty, and property, and five different women navigate these new barriers alongside age-old questions surrounding motherhood, identity, and freedom.
This fictional tapestry weaves together five female characters scrabbling with the expectations and constrictions of a country where reproductive rights are severely curtailed. What could've been didactic instead becomes an enchanting ramble through the myths and mundanities of womanhood … Red Clocks ends up feeling like an enjoyable puzzle that is fundamentally unsolvable, some of its pieces playfully misplaced along the way. The fractured narrative leaves us to connect the dots between these disparate characters, all of whom make bleak compromises because they — like so many women throughout history — have so few options available to them.
Leni Zumas’s spry new novel, Red Clocks, does a nice job both of denaturing the world and of riffing on extreme versions of it ... Zumas showcases their experience of femaleness and, in so doing, asks us to rethink what it really means to be female in a world that’s written almost exclusively by men and, in particular, by men who know nothing—and care nothing—for women’s rights. If this sounds all too familiar, your dread reading this novel will be palpable … For all its polemics, Red Clocks is actually most notable for the brio of its prose—its excellent sense of timing and cadence. The novel moves at a clip. Often it’s downright jaunty. This has the benefit of ensuring that we never get stuck in any one place.
The ordinariness of the world that Zumas imagines is perhaps the most unsettling aspect of Red Clocks … As much as Red Clocks is about the repressive legal proposals that threaten women’s lives in America, the novel is equally astute on the cultural constraints that women contend with — and enforce on each other. They’re all subjected to grinding, fruitless competition over their careers and their sexuality … Her prose sports a kind of rawness that’s really the fruit of subtle artfulness. She’s flexible enough to reflect each woman’s differing concerns and personality, from the high schooler’s fear and earnestness, to the mother’s conflicted depression and the hermit’s earthy insight. Her phrasing stays exquisitely close to these minds, not quite stream of consciousness, but shadowing the confluence of anxiety and rationality they all harbor.