Summary from Goodreads:
Fifteen years after the events of The Handmaid’s Tale, the theocratic regime of the Republic of Gilead maintains its grip on power, but there are signs it is beginning to rot from within.
At this crucial moment, the lives of three radically different women converge, with potentially explosive results. Two have grown up on opposite sides of the border: one in Gilead as the privileged daughter of an important Commander, and one in Canada, where she marches in anti-Gilead protests and watches news of its horrors on TV. The testimonies of these two young women, part of the first generation to come of age in the new order, are braided with a third voice: that of one of the regime’s enforcers, a woman who wields power through the ruthless accumulation and deployment of secrets. Long-buried secrets are what finally bring these three together, forcing each of them to come to terms with who she is and how far she will go for what she believes. As Atwood unfolds the stories of the women of The Testaments, she opens up our view of the innermost workings of Gilead in a triumphant blend of riveting suspense, blazing wit, and virtuosic world-building.
Not gonna lie, I was not impressed when The Testaments was announced. The Handmaid’s Tale is a book I felt never needed more explanation or sequel. It was a very important part of my reading when I was a teenager. I probably would have read The Testaments, eventually, but then it got picked for the Barnes and Noble Book Club so I had to read it right away to lead the group.
I did like the writing and overall book as a whole. But where The Handmaid’s Tale had bared teeth and outrage, The Testaments doesn’t really give us new ground. We get a lot of pedantic nuts-and-bolts about how Gilead came about and more detail about day-to-day women’s lives. Dirty secrets and double-dealing as expected. But it is readable and I did enjoy it. (And yes, mild spoiler, there is another epilogue from the Gilead symposium or whatever.)
In my opinion, you can read this without having read The Handmaid’s Tale, although you should really read that one anyway. Atwood sidesteps a direct sequel to Offred’s story here by choosing different narrators, although if you’re paying attention you can easily pick out the links to the earlier book (meaning: I guessed all the “twists” in the plot).
Dear FTC: I bought my copy of this book because no one got a galley.