Kathryn H., October, Reviews
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What You Say Can Never Be Exact

I am right on board with Katherine C. – I think this is one of my, possibly my absolute, favorite of the books we’ve read so far. I think my favorite part of the book was the way the narrative unfolded. It was like reading the way we actually think – the story opening up a little at a time, swaying from past to present to fact to feeling. Once I read the Historical Notes, I understood the perspective of the story more clearly, and I thought back to something I read earlier in the book.

It’s impossible to say a thing exactly the way it was, because what you say can never be exact, you always have to leave something out, there are too many parts, sides, crosscurrents, nuances; too many gestures, which could mean this or that, too many shapes which can never be fully described, too many flavors, in the air or on the tongue, half-colors, too many.

It’s interesting to then think back on the story and think of all the things possibly misremembered, all the things left out intentionally or unintentionally, all the things missed by Offred (what is her real name?! I feel like it was probably Elizabeth). It endeared me more to our narrator, made her even more relatable, because I know there are moments of my life that I remember probably incorrectly, either to protect myself, or even to punish myself for some indiscretion long-forgotten by everyone except me.

I purposely did no research on the book before I started reading. Truly, it could’ve been a medieval story about a handmaid, I had no clue. So imagine my surprise when what I read was truly medieval, but only in action not in time. Given the {Ghost Stories} theme of October, let me be clear about the spookiest part of this story: it does not feel as unrealistic as it should. There are definitely people who would read this and think “yes, this makes sense.” And that is terrifying.

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