The Handmaid's Tale is terrifying and fascinating all at the same time. And it got me looking for readalikes. One such is Archetype, a great debut that read like a cross between Before I Go To Sleep by S. J. Watson and Hilary Jordan's When She Woke (another great option if you're looking for more like Handmaid's). In Watson's book the female protagonist wakes with no memories and must learn who she can trust. A similar journey awaits the heroine in Archetype. But for Emma, her world is one in which a fertility crisis has largely abridged the rights of women - a subject Hilary Jordan so wonderfully addressed in When She Woke. In mentioning the ways in which this book picked up on the themes of the earlier works, I am paying the highest of compliments, since both books were on my best lists when they came out.
M. D. Waters builds her tale gradually. Emma wakes in a hospital and spends months there trying to regain a life. Though she has no memory of Declan, the man who says he's her husband, Emma soon comes to rely on him for everything and even comes to care for him. Even when her dreams suggest that she once had a very different life and a different man to love. Initially she dismisses those dreams as just that, dreams. But as she recovers physically and mentally, Emma senses that Declan and her doctor are lying to her. And the more she struggles to piece her past together, the more resistance she faces. In fact Emma comes to realize that she can't tell anyone just what she's remembering, not if she wants to continue remembering or even existing.
The tension and suspense build naturally. The more Emma learns, the scarier her story becomes. As the pressure on Emma increased, I found myself racing through to the end. Truly a great read. And if these types of books are your jam, be on the lookout for Vox by Christina Dalcher who writes of a world in the not too distant future where women are limited to 100 words a day - due out later this summer.