I finished reading The Handmaid’s Tale this month. Margaret Atwood’s story about a future America dominated by religion and males, with women subjugated and forced to bear children, does contain love and passion, too.

I was struck by the passage below, so beautiful that I made a note of it in my Kindle copy of the book. The writing shows off how loving Atwood is with words of love. Here, the heroine of the book describes her illicit, secret lover, her respite after she’s lost the memory of her husband Luke.

I want to see what can be seen, of him, take him in, memorize him, save him up so I can live on the image, later: the lines of his body, the texture of his flesh, the glisten of sweat on his pelt, his long sardonic unrevealing face. I ought to have done that with Luke, paid more attention, to the details, the moles and scars, the singular creases; I didn’t and he’s fading. Day by day, night by night he recedes, and I become more faithless. For this one I’d wear pink feathers, purple stars, if that were what he wanted; or anything else, even the tail of a rabbit. But he does not require such trimmings. We make love each time as if we know beyond the shadow of a doubt that there will never be any more, for either of us, with anyone, ever. And then when there is, that too is always a surprise, extra, a gift.

Five summers ago I took a Novel seminar at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, where we studied Atonement. Our instructor advised us to deliver the details of a body your character has come to know and love. Atwood gives us this as well as anybody I’ve read.

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