The Heart Goes Last But My Heart Wasn’t In It

heart goes last
The Heart Goes Last is a weird book, and just when you think it can’t get any weirder, it does. This book has everything: voluntary prisons, involuntary brain surgery, organ theft, sexbots.

Even Stefon thinks this might be too much
Stan and Charmaine were just an ordinary couple who lost everything in an economic crash. Now they live in their car. Every night they’re terrified that they’ll be murdered while they sleep. While working in a bar, Charmaine sees a solution to their problems: a commercial for Consilience. Consilience is a town/prison. Volunteers sign up for life, one month they live happily in a beautiful house, on alternate months they live in Positron, a prison. They quickly sign on. A lifetime of security is better than a life of fear.

Things do seem to be going well, at first. Then Charmaine starts having an affair with the man who lives in their house on alternating months, things start to unravel. Consilience itself is a prison with rules and those who break the rules have to pay the price. Does Consilience keep evil out or evil in?

I’ve been reading articles about The Heart Goes Last because I can’t get a handle on what it is, if that makes sense. It’s supposed to be funny, I guess, though I thought it was more silly than funny. One of the characters spends half the novel in an Elvis costume.

There are some interesting ideas wrapped up in all this weirdness. At one point, Stan, whose job in prison is to take care of chickens, hears about a new breed of headless chicken, which is supposed to decrease anxiety and increase production. Later I realized that the citizens of Consilience are just chickens to the managers of the town, and if they were headless in some way or another, all the better. People are just using the bodies of other people for their own ends.

Security in exchange for freedom is a big part of the novel. Atwood doesn’t mess around. She literally puts people in a prison, and when they’re living in the town, they’re still imprisoned. But without the security of Consilience, life is a nightmare. Where is that balance? Can freedom and security co-exist?

Pretty much everyone in this novel is awful. Stan and Charmaine are not great people. It’s not that I need likeable characters, but I’d like to know how to feel about them as a couple. Am I supposed to hope they come back together? I didn’t. When they are together, I thought Stan was a dick to his wife. He underestimates her. She’s a survivor. I also found it frustrating that they are so passive. They’re pawns waiting to be moved. At one point I couldn’t see how they would get out of their situation, but they do because someone else decides their fate.

The Heart Goes Last is pretty wacky. You can read it for the thought provoking themes, or you can read it for the sex robots. It’s up to you!

For me, I thought her last book Stone Mattress was funnier and more interesting. One thing about Margaret Atwood though is she always goes for the weird!

(I won The Heart Goes Last from Goodreads.)


  1. Whew, I don't think that's for me.

  2. I haven't read any posts about this one except for yours but it seems that I've been hearing similar sentiments here and there. It's been YEARS since I've read Atwood and she definitely great at getting to those weird themes. Think I'll stick with the backlist before I get to this one.

  3. I've always loved Atwood's works, but I haven't read up to the latest ones. Sounds like this is really the weirdest yet!

  4. I haven't read any Atwood in such a long time, this one had really piqued my interest. Thanks for your review...I'm not so sure I'm going to like it after all. I sort of need to have at least one likable character, somebody I can sort of be pulling for. I may put this one down a few notches on the old to be read pile!

  5. Yeah, I think I will be okay if my e-galley expires and archives before I get a chance to read it. Although, sexbots? Why do sexbots intrigue more than anything?


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