A few weeks back, that is before the school year and all that comes with it began, I saw a blurb about this novel, Vox. It was described as a modern Handmaid’s Tale and has definite 1984 vibes. I picked up the Kindle/Audible version to share with my daughter.
The story is set in a near future America in which women have had the number of words they are allowed to say in a day limited to 100. The enforcement is electronic and automatic. Writing and sign language are similarly discouraged. Thus too reading is restricted.
It doesn’t sound like a happy book. And it isn’t. But it does make for a fascinating read. Our heroine is married with sons and one young daughter. She is also a researcher on aphasia, a type of language malfunction in the brain. So when a man with connections high up in government comes down with aphasia, she is offered the chance to temporarily have her word limit removed while she seeks a remedy.
How do you plan a revolution when you have no words? That is the crux of Vox. After a subtle erosion of rights, one day women couldn’t get passports anymore. And then they couldn’t read or write or talk. If women can’t communicate effectively what does that do to their ability to protect themselves? In a world where #MeToo wars with the erosion of women’s health care choices, what happens if we all just stay silent?
This book is less about the destruction by men of women’s ability to be self-determinative, though that is defintely there. It is more about how women must come from behind with their bravery, to throw off the shackles of pleasantries and niceties to confront injustice head on. This is not simple. I can appreciate the dichotomy of finding it a necessitity to confronting an injustice head on while still excusing minor slights. That happens because I am uncomfortable with confrontation. But why am I uncomfortable with confrontation? What tiny little ‘microagressions’ have kept me from calling out tiny little ‘microagressions’? If I see them, will I be able to overcome what has been engrained in me and act? Vox is very much about the results, personal and societal, of choosing silence and acquesience. As a woman raised with manners, this struck a chord in my Southern heart. It does not promise a road map but will show you the order of the funeral procession if we lose.
Read. Absorb. Reflect. Act.