Book Club Guide: Red Clocks

Red Clocks

I always stress out about hosting my book club. I worry that everyone will hate the book I pick, they won’t want to talk about it, and that the treats I put out will taste terrible. None of this has ever happened, but I still stress out about it.

The last book club I hosted was a month or so ago, and we discussed Red Clocks, by Leni Zumas. I loved this book, but had a hard time coming up with questions for the group. My brain was too occupied with trying to process the entire novel, so it was difficult to think about what others experienced while reading.

Many reviews dubbed Red Clocks as a futuristic, dystopian story, similar to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. However, given the current state of women’s health in the USA, I’d argue it’s much more realistic.

Red Clocks follows five different female characters, and ties all of their stories together perfectly. Each chapter is told from a different perspective, and starts with stating their identity rather than their name.

There’s Ro, The Biographer, who is a single teacher who wants to have a baby. However, IVF is illegal, and the USA is getting ready to pass a law stating that only married couples can adopt. Ro is also in the process of writing a biography about Evior, a polar explorer. These excerpts are scattered throughout the book, and showcase her perseverance in studying science at a time when women were not allowed to do so.

Susan, The Wife, is a mother of two in a crumbling marriage. She’s often reflecting on what her life would be like if she attended law school instead of getting married.

Mattie, The Daughter, is a high school student who finds herself pregnant in a country that punishes abortion with a charge of first-degree murder. However, she does not want to keep her baby, and turns to her teacher, Ro, for help.

Finally, there’s Gin, The Mender, who lives as a recluse in the forest, and offers women who come to her herbal and natural remedies for various health issues, such as STIs and unwanted pregnancies.

All of the women are very different, but in some ways they are also strikingly similar. I knew this book would result in some passionate discussions, and was excited to talk about it with my friends. The questions I posed to the group are below.

Discussion Questions

  1. The book’s description states “five women, one question – what is a woman for?” What do you think the book says in regards to this question?
  2. What character did you relate to, or like, the most?
  3. A lot of reviews categorized this book as a science-fiction dystopia. Do you agree? If not, what genre would you place this book under?
  4. What is the importance/significance of the whales throughout the story?
  5. What did you think of the explorer’s story? Was it too disjointed to follow, or did it add value to the story? If so, what did you get from it?
  6. What does the book say about female relationships? Take the Wife and Biographer – they hated each other because they assumed the other had a perfect, ideal life, when they were actually struggling. Do you think if they were honest with each other they could have been friends?
  7. Why was it necessary to have the Mender compared to a witch? Specifically, the similarities between her trial, and the Salem witch trials.

The conversation, as always, continued to grow out of these questions. We also shared stories about our own personal experiences, prejudice we have faced as women, and our shared frustration with stereotypes placed on women. By the end of our book club meeting, we were all celebrating each other, our personal decisions and choices, and the fact that we’re all badass ladies!

Has your book club ever discussed a book that brought everyone together? Let me know!

4 thoughts on “Book Club Guide: Red Clocks

  1. Grab the Lapels says:

    I’m so jealous. In my book club, there is no leader. People just come for one meeting and disappear, some people come month after month, but we don’t even have the people who started the book club anymore, so I think no one is willing to take charge of it. Sometimes, things fizzle out after 10-15 minutes. Good on you for being such a devoted reader and member! Your questions are great!

    • Elizabeth DiCesare says:

      Thanks, I’m glad you liked the questions! That’s too bad about your book club though. With mine, we all take turns hosting, so it’s never on one single person to do it all. Whoever picks the book also hosts, and leads the conversation, so we all get a chance. We do our best to meet once a month, but depending on schedules, it is sometimes every other month. Maybe sharing the hosting duties would help your group? Worth a try!

      • Elizabeth DiCesare says:

        There are about 10 of us that make up the main group, and then we will sometimes invite friends to join in as well. Some people stay, but others float around for a bit. We also use a Facebook group to coordinate dates and such, so whoever is hosting creates a poll where people can say whether or not they are able to attend. That helps a lot, and we can always see who is coming, and who has to skip.

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