Marge Piercy: Woman on the Edge of Time/Readings

ISBN: 1556441673
ISBN 13: 9781556441677
By: Marge Piercy

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About this book

Connie Ramos, a woman in her mid-thirties, has been declared insane. But Connie is overwhelmingly sane, merely tuned to the future, and able to communicate with the year 2137. As her doctors persuade her to agree to an operation, Connie struggles to force herself to listen to the future and its lessons for today....

Reader's Thoughts

Nusaybah

This exceptional science fiction novel was copyrighted in 1976. In some parts of the story the reader should keep this period of history in mind as well as the city in which the story is set. This is a masterful work considering the period when the author wrote it. Piercy provides the reader with an interesting look at the possibilities of the duality of a very distant future. This book reveals to us the perspective and experiences of a hispanic woman whose only crime is being a poor, sensitive, giving woman, oppressed by members of society who sit in judgement of her instead of seeking to humanely assist her.

Max Gordon

It’s interesting how the lens of three decades of life experience can sharpen the focus of certain stories—and even parts of stories. When I first read Woman on the Edge of Time not long after it was published (1976), I was barely into my 20s and already a reliable cog in the corporate machine. At that time, I enjoyed Marge Piercy’s story of a 37-year-old Chicana woman in New York whose already-complicated life takes a twist for the bizarre when she begins to communicate with an ambassador from the year 2137, but I found little to identify with personally beyond the yearning for a more egalitarian, utopian world. I read the book again when I was around the age of the main character, Consuela Ramos, and found considerably more to love—and ponder. I had naively thought when I first read the book in the late 70s that sexism, racism, and ethnocentrism were on the wane—outmoded concepts that were slowly but undeniably going the way of other counterproductive human behaviors like burning witches at the stake or equating nonconformity with insanity. Silly me. The 80s and 90s taught me otherwise, so that by the time I dipped into Woman in the late 90s, I realized how prescient some of Piercy’s observations were. And when I reread the book yet again recently, I finally found the story far richer and more nuanced than in any of my earlier readings.I am a gay single mother in my 50s who, after a severe depressive episode, has seen the inside of a mental institution. The short-term unit at McLean is a country club for harmless sadsacks compared with the more Cuckoo’s Nest setting Connie finds herself in, to be sure, but it’s a nuthouse all the same. So during this reading I found myself especially attuned to Connie’s treatment by “the system”—the way her story of the actions that led to her second commitment are ignored and read as denial and evidence of illness; the emphasis on orderly obeisance and lecturing over individual therapy and understanding; the easy assumption that “noncompliance” is dangerous and must be crushed. To be fair, I did not encounter frightened, uncaring staff during my brief stay, but it is still true that patients rarely if ever see actual doctors. At best they see counselors in group settings, but most interactions are with nurses, technicians, and pharmacists—just as they were in Piercy’s 1976 hospital. Those insights were critical in this recent reading of the book. The first time I read the book (I was a kid, remember!), I tended to believe that Ramos was indeed schizophrenic, and that she had created a very inventive but allegorically instructional alternative world to hide out in to escape the roughness of the real world. After the second reading I had no doubt that she had in fact been communicating with and visiting the world in 2137, and that her brave actions at the end of the book played a critical role in averting a disastrous future. But after this latest most recent reading, I have a different conclusion: it doesn’t matter. The book works either way, because it is above all character study, a deeply introspective look at community, evolution, survival, identity, and connectedness. Past reviewers have called the future world a “feminist utopia,” but this is hardly accurate. What they seem to be responding to is the idea that this future shows a world in which capitalism is not the driving force. It’s true: men are not in charge. But neither are women. Everyone is on charge, in turn. It’s not even socialism but communal living taken to a grand scale and extreme. It’s a world where everyone matters and is listened to, which is why it is important that Connie is not just some average housewife or middle management executive or a neurosurgeon: Connie is the epitome of the voiceless, ignored part of society—the people we brush off as “nuts” and consider less worthy of our full attention. This is not to say that Piercy is suggesting that everyone wearing a foil hat is tuned into reality and we are all fools for thinking them crazy; rather, she is contrasting what can happen when one set of people assumes graceless power over another and refuses to listen, to allow them to contribute or make their own sometimes-bad choices. It’s about what could happen if we accept totalitarianism.As an aside, I was amused to see that several reviewers considered the book dated—not the “present” period, mind you, which they accepted as a quaint period piece, but the imagined future of 2137. What we all forget too easily is that in the time since this book was written we have been barraged by a high-tech cinematic view of the future that almost invariably depicts our fate as increasingly electronic, automated, and conformist. Woman was written after the original-Star Trek series but predates the movies, the spin-off, and flashy movies like the Star Wars, Alien, and Terminator franchises. And the book helped spawn a generation of the alternative cyberpunk view of the broken, dystopian future that gave us Bladerunner and Mad Max. But realistically, none of us knows what the world will be like 125 years from now. Would we have imagined in 1887 that we could cruise down a highway at 80 mph talking to loved ones around the world through an earpiece? That our conversations at busy intersections and streets would be monitored and captured on camera without our knowledge? That pilotless drones would crisscross vast territories collecting data and firing weapons aimed by people on different continents? To think that we have any more insight into what will still be “normal” in 2137 is hubris.

Mat

70's feminist tentative-utopia. As that genre goes, i really like this one. It comes more from the gender fluid/ androgyny positive side of things than the essentialist "women are more nurturing shit", which i liked. And i liked that the main character was a mad woman and that madness was well explored, if slightly simplistically at times. I don't like it's anti-cityness or certain aspects of uniformity that it espouses, but it's pretty tolerable for the traditions it adheres to. Those traditions are, ultimately, part of a history i respect and am grateful for.

Jane

Something about this story really touched me. Even though it's styled as Sci-Fi it's more of a fantasy that makes an statement on modern day society, politics and environmentalism. The part that really got me was when the person from the future was saddened by all the people trapped in their cars, commuting to work all alone. I also appreciated the future ideas of transportation, war and child raising. The ideas presented throughout were eye opening and really made me question our “modern” way of living.

Brimate

Woman of the Edge of Time is nuts. It's radical feminist sci-fi that's part future utopia, part powerful critique of current fucked-up society, part tale of liberation.The whole text is engaging, but for some reason it took me a while to read it. The protagonist is a poor Chicana woman in New York labelled insane.I'm on a feminist & utopian fiction kick and this is a wonderful addition. It's an amazing book and I think it is---or should be---a feminist/radical/sci-fi classic. Much more so than The Female man, which I read before this one (and is apparently a feminist sci-fi classic). Marge Piercy is pretty awesome, and hopefully someday I'll get to read more of her work. I think I'll find out more about her on wikipedia now. And I want to get all my friends to read this

Fiona Moyler

This book took up my every waking hour while I was reading it, and indeed by the end I was having dreams about it too! Unfortunately my unconscious brain is not a good author, and the bits of plot I dreamed were rubbish! I loved reading about the utopian society, but I didn't read it entirely without misgivings. It was fun to wonder would things be better this or that way, but also I found myself wondering what exactly the author intended at some points. I mean, I know that Connie's observation that the future men were emasculated was not to be trusted when you considered the horrors that she went through in her own time, but I wondered what Piercy intended in showing us Luciente/Diana as a destructive relationship, and also Bolivar/Jackrabbit as one which while not destructive, certainly caused pain for other characters. I know she points out the evil of homophobia elsewhere in the story (poor Skip) but am I really to believe it was a coincidence that two of the main characters had somewhat destructive gay relationships? Anyway, I worried a little about that, but overall the message was clear and Luciente's future was presented in a positive light. One thing I was delighted to see included was initiation rights for teenagers. I have thought for many years that those might sort out a lot of the problems caused by restless and irresponsible teens (and also eliminate the mental anguish a lot of people go through at that age). Towards the end it built up into a quite a suspenseful action story and I flew towards the end. There was little resolution there, but that certainly made it more open-ended and keeps you thinking about what future we are headed to.A lot of people are saying in their reviews that this is a book about the nature of sanity and insanity and no doubt it is, but funnily enough it didn't cross my mind that Connie might actually be insane until the last few pages. (Not that it would really matter if she was or not; the bits in the mental hospitals had me practically screaming in rage/fear at the injustice of Connie's plight and the smug, all-knowing air of the various people put in charge of her). Powerful stuff.

Dennis

** spoiler alert ** This is one of those books you either buy into, saying, yes, what a wonderful world it could be, or you think, what a load of shit, piled high and steaming. This is utopia as seen through the eyes of a fourth-grader, except that it was written by a grown woman taking a swing at science-fiction and missing big-time. The protagonist is a woman and Latina, which ought to make her automatically bullet-proof against any criticism, intelligent or not, but I never bought into how she ended up being oppressed in the first place unless being a woman and Latina automatically makes you oppressed. Since any happy-ending would be entirely out of character with the book (or with being a woman and Latina), the ending was fairly obvious, especially to anyone who'd seen "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." The utopia was impossibly good, the real world was impossibly bad, both were laid on thick, and the victimization was complete. One of those books which doesn't make you feel bored so much as angry for insulting your intelligence and wasting your time.

Isis

Hands down one of my all time favorite books - I'm certain some of that has to do with the point in my life during which I read it, however it shall always remain an ultimate favorite. The issues the Ms Piercy so deftly addresses are both the main focus of the story and completely secondary, almost an after thought. . . I never got the feeling of being preached at, yet so many important, and delicate, subjects were addressed throughout this novel. Mental illness, racism, gender equality (or rather inequality), socio-economic injustices - all these and more are deftly covered in this touching story of a woman struggling to make her way in a world where she starts with multiple strikes against her simply by the color of her skin and the fact that she was born female rather than male.This story switches between a present day world in which we live - with all the messes that actually exist in the "real" world - and a utopian future that is on the brink of destruction (fom the very same dangers that got us to the mess we are currently in). This novel presents some interesting ideas of how we could live, versus how we are living, raising the question of if we are living or simply struggling to continue to exist.While this book may sound like a very heavy, possibly dry read, it is anything but. Once you pick it up you will be hard pressed to set it down until you have finished it. This is a definite 'not to be missed' read!

Cyndy Aleo

I was first introduced to the novels and poetry of Marge Piercy when I was in college and very focused on the writings of women, especially feminist writings. In going through a bunch of books I had been keeping at my parents' house, I discovered boxes of books I probably haven't read in over ten years, one of which was Woman on the Edge of Time.::: Edge of Time, Edge of Reason :::Connie Ramos, the protagonist, is a middle-aged Hispanic woman living in poverty in New York City. Already committed to a mental hospital once after abusing her daughter during a depressive episode, she has lost everything: her daughter, the man she loved, and a life that was on the border of normal, even if it was based on her significant other's pickpocketing. Her niece Dolly arrives, having been beaten up by her pimp, and interrupts Connie in the middle of a conversation with Luciente, a person who claims to be from the future. Luciente disappears as Dolly enters Connie's apartment, and when Dolly's boyfriend/pimp comes after Dolly with a "doctor" to perform an abortion on her, Connie attacks him to help Dolly, and winds up back in Bellevue for her troubles.Dolly backs up her pimp's story that Connie attacked both of them, and Connie is transferred to another mental hospital, Rockover, where she continues her conversations with Luciente, eventually going over mentally to the future to experience their world, meeting Luciente's friends and family, and experiencing their utopian society, where men and women are equal and share in all tasks, from farming to defense. Everyone shares resources, people own very few possessions, and their world is a welcome respite from the reality of the mental hospital where Connie is literally a prisoner, soon to be subjected to a medical test where a device is implanted in her brain to control her.As Connie spends more and more time with Luciente, she longs for a world that won't keep her down, even as she balks at some of the things that women gave up to have totally equal status: live birthing and sharing breastfeeding duties with men, who "comother." She also learns that Luciente's people are fighting a war to maintain their utopian society, and that Connie herself must fight to help them attain their reality, for there are many possibilities, and their utopia is only one of them.::: A Book Before Its Time :::Woman on the Edge of Time was first published in 1976, in the center of the Women's Rights Movement. In 1976, the Supreme Court upheld a decision in General Elec. Co v. Gilbert that a woman had the right to unemployment benefits during her last trimester of pregnancy, and the year before, in Taylor v. Louisiana, states were denied the right to prevent women from serving on juries because of their gender. The concept of a utopian society where all people were exactly equal must have seemed even more incredible.The novel is one that people seem to either love or hate. I've read reviews where some think it is too feminist, while others criticize Connie as a stereotype: overweight, poor, and Hispanic, while her brother Luis (who goes by Lewis) has become a success only by blending in with white society, and who has a succession of "Anglo" wives as he moves up society's ladder. Her commitment to the hospital is as much an effort for Luis to be rid of his poor past as it is to help Connie.The scenes in Matapoissett are especially vivid, with detailed descriptions of societies who choose culture based on the village they live in and not what they are born into, where there are no class distinctions, and where every person's talents and abilities are valued.Piercy also includes a glimpse of another possible future that Connie visits accidentally. This scene has been mentioned as a precursor to cyberpunk, showing a futuristic society much like that of William Gibson's novels. Connie sees a society in which women are nothing more than objects, and the class division is much greater than it is in her present, and decides to align herself with Luciente's society; to prevent the other from occurring no matter what the cost.::: Still Timely? :::While some of the plot points are dated, including how much money would be needed in present society to accomplish much of anything, the overall message of the novel still has a great deal to offer in terms of the overall worth of the individual over class and gender, as well as the treatment of the poor and mentally ill. The sections with the utopian society along make a wonderful tale, even if the reader is never sure whether they are a product of Connie's mental illness or a true reality. Almost thirty years later, this novel is still a riveting read. This review previously published at Epinions: http://www.epinions.com/review/_20057...

Amy

I need to reread this. I've thought about it often since reading it the first time. I especially always think of Piercy's word "per" as a singular gender neutral third person pronoun whenever I hear myself awkwardly saying "he or she" or (shudder) "they" to mean the same thing. I remember loving the story and thinking about how interesting and well-thought out all of the utopian ideas were. Aug 2010I reread this book hoping for more enjoyment - not that it's worse on the second pass but I got so damn depressed thinking about how our world is really messed up compared to the future Connie visits. May 2011Reread for the third time. This book makes me so sad. It also makes me want to be a better person. And it makes me wish we had more beauty in our lives, like the people of Mattapoiset do with their celebrations of death, holidays, the way they work, they way they play...

Jasmine

"An army of lovers cannot lose, An army of lovers cannot lose!"Whilst Marge Piercy's vision of utopia and dystopia doesn't offer anything new to all the other utopia/dystopia books out there, I really loved the anti-establishment edge to the book.Through Connie Ramos (a refreshingly imperfect non-Anglo protagonist), we experience two alternate visions of the year 2137 - one a 'utopia' of self sufficiency, where girls go with boys, or girls go with girls who want boys, and boys go with boys.....but it's not an issue. The people in this utopian future live in a community where socialism actually works and everybody is happy (but don't withhold the coffee!)The alternate dystopian future is horrific, where people live in windowless boxes and experience life through virtual reality 'experiences'. Something from the dystopian future that stood out for me was the highly sexualised nature of Gildina's virtual reality experiences - the violent hard-core porn titles seemed similar to what is on offer in today's society (OK, I realise that now I sound like I watch these because I 'know' that porn is quite violent towards women - I don't care biiiiiatches!)I would have liked to have seen more of the dystopian future, but this didn't change my enjoyment of the book. From reading some of the reviews here, I noticed a lot of people said that they found the book to be a little dated - I didn't find that at all. You have to remember that the book was published in 1976, and for a vision of the future, it was quite spot on in some aspects. Also, as I mentioned earlier, what sets this book apart from other feminist utopia/dystopias (OK - I admit, the only other feminist dystopias I have read are The Handmaid's Tale and Oryx and Crake, both by Margaret Atwood) is the strong anti-establishment theme.I loved the language use in the two alternate futures as well - the use of 'per' as a gender neutral pronoun is great, and grasp as understand (i.e. Do you grasp?) Coolest item from the future = a kenner (I want one of those!)Another aspect of the book that resonated with me is Connie's experience in Ward L-6 and the Neuro-Psychiatric Ward. This provides an interesting insight into a patient's view of a mental institution in the 70's. Although, who knows, maybe that is still what it's like in a modern day mental institution (scary thought).Lastly, Connie Ramos is just another example of how the 'system' screws women everyday - chews them up and spits them out. The ending did not surprise me at all, and in fact was a little disappointing.Anyway - a great read and quite poetic at times (I loved the occasional poetry and songs littered throughout the novel). The hippies would have loved it and the greenies would love it still. I would not go so far as to call it 'anti-city' like somebody else did in their review of the book - for example, with Connie's initial visits to Mattapoisett, she would point out all that was 'backward' about the place and Luciente did not always have a convincing response, and would get pretty defensive about Connie's point of view.I would be open to reading Marge Piercy's other work, especially 'City of Darkness, City of Light', I have just read the bit at the back of the book and it sounds right up my alley!

Jamie

3.5 stars. Piercy's novel, as many other reviewers have noted, is somewhat dated for the contemporary reader - written in 1976, her vision of the haves and the have-nots resonates strongly with Marxist-leaning feminist politics emergent at that moment. We may think ourselves much more inclined to seek out the nuances of sociopolitical oppression today (though isn't this--the sense that "we" are somehow more developed than those who have come before us--one of the interesting tensions between the protagonist and her notions of the future's 'primitivism'?), but Piercy's understanding of Connie Ramos' social location is more or less cut-and-dry. Connie's limitations (being an immigrant, being Chicana, having a history of drug abuse and pickpocketing, etc.) are used not to develop a multi-faceted ethical characterization but to mark her, indelibly, as a 'victim' of the world. Which is to say: Connie and her world allegorize the problems of 70s American culture, and work to suggest what may happen if we don't 'fix' these social issues. This makes for a quick and engaging story, though perhaps one that feels at times a bit didactic, a bit programmatic. Piercy's vision of the possible future is perhaps the most absorbing portion of the book. Where many speculative or dystopian/utopian narratives underscore things like genetic tampering, global industrialization, technological slavery,&co&co, Piercy imagines a sort of sideways utopia in which these very possibilities also have their productive uses. Genetic modification facilitates, for example, the breeding of 'abnormalities' (that is, breeding elements of chance in plant life that works alongside evolutionary principles in order to replenish the earth), and ensuring the proliferation of possible racial & ethnic bodies (cultures, in Piercy's world, are chosen by affinity rather than by birth). The technological enhancement of the body--or at least the health of the body--allows for longer laboring bodies (children and the elderly) so that everyone is able to work less day by day. Duties are shared by all, children are born outside of the uterus and 'co-mothered' by three figures. Gender is more or less null as a category of identity (everyone is referred to as "person" or "per" rather than "him/her/she/he"). But this does not mean that the generalized human struggle is over; battles occur, killers are killed by their tribes, everyone does not, in short, 'just get along.' This is perhaps the strength of Piercy's futuristic worldview: that even in an ostensibly utopian society, Piercy still recognizes that stasis would be little more than death. On the whole, the writing is adequate; the story becomes really engaging after about a hundred pages; the future is truly fascinating. Connie was for me sometimes difficult to really sympathize with, largely because I thought of her tale as more like a fable than an individual experience. Definitely worth a read for anyone interested in feminist fantasy or sci-fi, feminist lit, those who enjoy reading about women and madness. Though I found it a chore at times, I'm really quite glad I added this one to the shelf.

MRM

I feel harsh giving this book only two stars, but since my reaction was "it was okay," two stars is accurate in the GoodReads context. (Actually, my true reaction was "it was fucking depressing," though after closing the book and reflecting, there's of course a more nuanced reaction to be had.)An anarchist reading group whose meetings I've been attending held a discussion of this book, which is why I picked it up in the first place. One member said that Piercy's vision of a non-hierarchical society matched his ideal society in a lot of ways, and I would have to agree.Humanity is still human -- some conflicts are portrayed, for example -- but several issues were left unexplored, like the "criminal justice" system (if I remember correctly, Luciente et al explain that people are killed after they do something unforgivable a second time). Also, I'm not sure what I think about the way babies are born in 2137...And even in this world, there are rumblings of trouble on the horizon, with not just the ongoing war but also the philosophical split (related to genetics and human reproduction) between the Shapers and the Mixers.One of the more plausible elements of Mattapoisett's world was the change in pronouns ("person" and "per," rather than gendered terms). Language isn't constant in general, and given that "he/she," "s/he," and non-mainstream gender-neutral pronouns like "hir" and "ze" are replacing the generic "he," real life is (slowly) becoming less patriarchal, and our words are reflecting it.Piercy conveys the contemporary (well, late 1970s) societal surround of misogyny, racism, and classism quite literally by setting the novel mostly in a mental institution. Most of the supporting characters in the present day storyline are one-dimensional (for example, would no one at the Thanksgiving dinner with her family really have shown any sympathy for her?), and, like any utopia (or dystopia?), the plot is a vehicle for getting out Piercy's ideas of alternative societies in our potential future. The flip side to this artifice is that having a story to hang ideas on makes everything more memorable, especially if you're a reluctant reader of theory like I am.Another participant in my book discussion said that she thought Connie should have killed herself, too, at the end of the book, rather than passively waiting to be taken back to Rockover and punished for life. I would have to agree there. I also think her murderous action was justified, given her situation. As a "sacrifice" that would "save the future," as the cover copy on the 1983 Fawcett Crest edition puts it, poisoning a few of the professionals isn't quite up to the job. But as a battle, definitely.

Danika Dinsmore

I loved parts of this book and thought others dragged on too long. There was a lot of talking and exposition where I suddenly felt like I was stuck inside Piercy's "What I did on my Summer Vacation: Toured a Utopian Society." When I take a step back and think about WHEN this was written (early 70's), it's a bit mind-blowing, really. In addition, the creation of an entire way of speaking - all the future slang - is incredible. I'm sure many readers thought this annoying or clunky, but I admired her consistent use of it.At times it is heart-wrenching, because the "real" part of this story is sadly real. It's an incredible social commentary and an interesting look into the world of the "insane asylum" circa 1970, told from the perspective of an uneducated poor Hispanic woman who lands there unjustly. I like the ambiguity as to whether she is actually time traveling or truly "insane." I did have a bit of a problem in that all the men in Connie's current time are "evil" (except one gay kid in the hospital with her and Connie's 2 dead ex-husbands).I did not like the ending, which is probably how I ended up with 3 stars. I didn't mind her actions at the end, not that they are completely justifiable, but didn't like the strange "piece" of her file presented. I guess it's meant to indicate how she spends the rest of her years... (don't want to say more for fear of spoiling). I might have liked it better if it just simply didn't include that are we were left to wonder.I'd recommend this book for anyone interested in soft-sci fi / feminist / dystopian-utopian literature.

Terence

At last - a book I've been meaning to put on the wish list and that's on one of my group's Reads next month. (Even better - my library has a copy in house!)************************Rating: 3.3-3.5 starsIf the last two novels I had read before this had been Paul McAuley's The Quiet War and Bruce Sterling's The Caryatids then I may have nudged my rating into the 4-star category but they weren't. Instead they were Sylvia Townsend Warner's Lolly Willowes, Mr. Fortune's Maggot and Summer Will Show, and Piercy's writing style suffered by comparison (IMO, of course).Another strike against the novel was that I wasn't able to "get into it" for the first 100 pages or so.However: It got better. The writing, while never on the level Warner seems to reach effortlessly, did improve and there were some scenes that did leap off the page. And after Chapter 4, it became easier for me to empathize with Connie and enjoy her trips to the world of 2137.One of my groups is reading the book this month (March 2010) so I'm going to hold off on a more thorough (and spoiler-laden) review until later this month, hoping to get some insights and different POVs from the discussion threads.************************Woman on the Edge of Time (WOTEOT or Woman) is an interesting if not especially well written entry in the utopian/dystopian genre. It describes a future Earth where hierarchies have disappeared, gender roles are nonexistent, communities live in sustainable harmony with their environments and people realize their potentials. (Some people commented in the reading thread that it seemed dated in places because it was written in the '70s but I found its interest in the environment, war, out-of-control technology and social pressures to conform very contemporary.) The future isn't perfect. There's still the specter of a war against the remnants of the earlier machine, exploitative civilization (i.e., us - the 20th Century). But that culture only clings to a few enclaves on Earth and some space stations.We find out about this future through the psychic journeys of Consuelo (Connie) Ramos, a middle-aged Chicana whose life has been stifled by all the problems the future has solved. The promise of a better life was quashed when she had to drop out of college after only 2 years, having gotten pregnant by her first husband. When another lover, Claud (the only decent relationship Connie ever had), dies, she descends into a haze of depression and alcohol, loses her daughter and spends some time in a mental institution. When she tries to protect her niece Dolly from her pimp/boy friend, Connie winds up in an institution again because she's a "threat" and prone to violence. Just prior to this, Connie had been visited by a vision of Luciente, who turns out to be from 2137. Connie is a prime "receiver," and can travel with Luciente to the future, where she has a physical existence and can interact with the people she meets there in a limited way.Meanwhile, as Connie learns about the future, in the present she and her fellow inmates are threatened by a scientist who wants to experiment with brain surgery to "cure" them.For me, the selections of the novel set in the mental ward were the most affecting. Piercy manages to generate a real feeling for the helplessness and despair that its inmates feel as their lives are destroyed by the callous indifference of the staff, mental and physical abuse, and the determination of the doctors to try out their pet theories about mental health. The authors uses the future to highlight these cruelties in comparison as well as other issues that resonate today - the environment, gender conflict, war, individuals vs. community, and others.I would argue that, in the end, the future Connie visits is a hallucination that her mind constructs to give her the tools she needs to finally act against her oppressors. The ending is poignantly bleak - her rebellion is no more than a passive-aggressive attack against her immediate enemies - the doctors tormenting her and her friends. Connie manages to avoid further brain surgeries but is unable to escape her imprisonment, and ends up institutionalized for life. There's a glimmer of hope that her action may have allowed her friend Sybil to escape but the reader is left in the dark about that; and there's no certainty that Luciente's future is the real one as she has pointed out earlier that her reality is merely a possibility.I give WOTEOT a qualified recommendation. I enjoyed it eventually and found a lot to admire and hope for in Piercy's vision of the future, and I would certainly recommend it to the utopian/dystopian reading crowd.

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