“The Heart Goes Last” by Margaret Atwood” BOOK REVIEW

The Heart Goes Last

Year of Publication: 2016

Publisher: Anchor

ISBN: 9781101912362

Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia Speculative Fiction.

Strong Point: The starting premise of the story is quite intriguing and interesting.

Weak Point: The end is quite rushed and the characters’ decisions are very questionable.

Books on Tour Rating: Books on Tour LogoBooks on Tour Logo(3/5)

Goodreads Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (3.37/5)


Stan and Charmaine are a married couple trying to stay afloat in the midst of an economic and social collapse. Job loss has forced them to live in their car, leaving them vulnerable to roving gangs. They desperately need to turn their situation around—and fast. The Positron Project in the town of Consilience seems to be the answer to their prayers. No one is unemployed and everyone gets a comfortable, clean house to live in . . . for six months out of the year. On alternating months, residents of Consilience must leave their homes and function as inmates in the Positron prison system. Once their month of service in the prison is completed, they can return to their “civilian” homes.

At first, this doesn’t seem like too much of a sacrifice to make in order to have a roof over one’s head and food to eat. But when Charmaine becomes romantically involved with the man who lives in their house during the months when she and Stan are in the prison, a series of troubling events unfolds, putting Stan’s life in danger. With each passing day, Positron looks less like a prayer answered and more like a chilling prophecy fulfilled.


“The Heart Goes Last” is the second book I have read by best-selling author Margaret Atwood, the first one being “The Handmaid Tale”. For this reason, my expectations were quite high, as I deeply enjoyed that book.

The book starts with a really compelling situation: in a not so far away future, Charmaine and Stan are a couple which has lost literary everything: they have no money, no house, and what is even worse, no future.

While they sleep in their car and spend every night afraid of being assaulted in a parking lot, they see an add about “The Positron Project” which offers a job and a house to live in. It sounds very good, right?

But (and there is always a “BUT”) after one month in the house, you have to spend one month in the Positron prison, located in the same city where you would live, Consilience. Afterwards, you would go back to your house to spend again another month, and so on. By the way, the months you are in prison, your house is “occupied” by another couple, called the “alternates”.

t sounds like a good deal, specially if you are in a desperate situation like Stan and Charmaine and you don’t see a way out of it. 


From the very beginning, the author makes the reader continuously wonder what you would do if you were in Stan and Charmaine’s situation: would you sacrifice one month of incarceration for the rest of your life in order to live comfortably and have a job?

The narration is enriched by the fact that it is told from two different perspectives, the one of Charmaine and the one of Stan. 

Nevertheless, as the days go by, the characters realise that living in Consilience is per se like living in a prison, all the time: they cannot have contact with people “from the outside”, they cannot see the normal TV but a Consilience channel, they do not get paid with real money and the list of things which inhabitants can and cannot do is very long. Too long.

Plus, supposedly they have to live in Consilience for the rest of their lives! It really sounds like a cult, right?

Every single decision that both make feels deep inside quite wrong. But, of course, we are humans, and our lives are all about making decisions, as well as succeeding and failing, and learning from those fails. 

However, if you fail in Consilience, you most probably die. 


I quite take pleasure in reading books belonging to the genre of dystopia and science fiction. I like to imagine different worlds and/or different times than the ones I am living in. Especially in this year 2020 it has been a good distraction to what we all have been suffering.

For all of this, “The Heart Goes Last” is a good dystopia. You have intriguing situations and characters, you have androids, unknown technology, etc. Plus the premise sounds very interesting and catches your attention. 

However, some of the decisions the characters make are very questionable. And everyone seems to be quite ok with that (don’t get me started with the chicken story, for example, or the Kiddybots, or the Possilibots!). They are told without giving it more than a quick thought, especially the ones at the end of the story.

In addition, the last events are very very unbelievable, even for a dystopia. 


“The Heart Goes Last” is a book I will anyway recommend for reading. Atwood writes very elegantly and her style is just impeccable.

However, the world she creates for this volume has some flaws, specially at the end of the story. It all seems very rushed and some of the circumstances of the outcome feel like crammed, just introduced there simply to finish the story, even if they don’t really fit. For that reason, I was not really immersed in this world and I didn’t entirely believe in it. 

The behaviour of Charmaine does not make any sense. She is a quite simple woman, in my opinion, but no woman would allow what supposedly has been done to her (I am really trying not to make any spoilers here, so sorry if I don’t explain myself 100% clearly!!!) and continue living happily with it together with her husband.

And, how can Stan forgive her for what she did to him? I wouldn’t!

Those are the reasons why I have only given “The Heart Goes Last” 3 ⭐️