In Margaret Atwood's 'The Handmaid's Tale' Sequel, Expect These 5 Revelations
Margaret Atwood's long-anticipated Handmaid's Tale sequel, The Testaments is finally due to be released this week, meaning you will soon find out what happens to Offred and the world of Gilead. Here's what we know so far about The Handmaid's Tale sequel so far.
Obviously, there are major spoilers ahead for both The Handmaid's Tale and The Testaments. You have been warned.
The Handmaid's Tale ended with its narrator, Offred, boarding a secret police van that may or may not have belonged to the underground resistance movement known as Mayday. At the time, she believed herself to be pregnant by her lover, Nick, who was himself a member of the secret police — the Eyes. Nick assured Offred that they had been sent by Mayday, not the Eyes, but she had no way of confirming without putting herself at risk. At the close of The Handmaid's Tale, readers were given little clue as to what happened to Offred in the aftermath of her escape from the Commander's house. (There is also an epilogue to The Handmaid's Tale, which takes place hundreds of years in the future, that may very well be the most disturbing part of the entire book.)
Now, readers can finally discover what happened to Offred. Picking up 15 years after The Handmaid's Tale left off, The Testaments brings together three narrators — Agnes, Daisy, and Aunt Lydia — to tell the continuing stories of Gilead and Offred. Here's what to expect:
Offred Is Alive
Perhaps the biggest news is that The Handmaid's Tale's beloved narrator, Offred, survived her escape from the Commander and Serena Joy. In The Testaments, Offred has been vilified in Gilead as a domestic terrorist, and has survived at least two attempts on her life. Although she doesn't play a major role in the new book, Offred's impact is felt throughout The Testaments because...
Agnes Is Offred's Daughter
Before The Handmaid's Tale began, Offred and her husband, Luke, tried to escape Gilead and cross the border into Canada with their daughter. They were caught and separated, leaving Offred in a perpetual, futile search to find her lost family. One of the narrators of The Testaments can shed some light on what happened after Offred's first escape attempt, however.
Agnes has grown up in Gilead, and lives in a position of relative luxury. In the excerpt published by The Guardian last week, she reveals that she was "Doubly chosen: not only pre-chosen to marry a Commander but chosen in the first place by Tabitha, who was my mother."
There are a few problems with Gilead's plan for Agnes, however. One is that she does not want to marry the Commander who has been chosen for her. The second issue, and the much more explosive one, is this: Agnes retains vague memories of Offred, in the days when she was called Hannah, and of their escape attempt when she was very little.
Agnes Isn't Offred's Only Child
Near the end of The Handmaid's Tale, Offred informs the reader that she believes herself to be pregnant from a recent tryst with Nick, but not enough time has passed to be certain. The Testaments reveals that her instincts were correct, and gives readers the opportunity to hear from her younger child.
Now a teenager living in Canada, Daisy hates Gilead for its backward ways, but she doesn't realize just how connected she is to that neighboring country. That is, until she discovers paperwork revealing that she was originally named Nicole, and born in Gilead. And that's not all. South of the border, Gilead has turned "Baby Nicole" into a martyr — a victim of Offred's plot to overthrow the government.
Aunt Lydia Plays a Starring Role
Not only does The Testaments reveal what happened to Offred after she finally made it out of Gilead, but it also tells the story of the country's founding. Aunt Lydia, the cruel woman who oversaw Handmaids' training at the Red Center, serves as one of The Testaments' narrators, and boy oh boy does she have a story for you.
In the years since Gilead's founding, Aunt Lydia has acquired a "near-godlike status," in the words of NPR reporter Danielle Kurtzleben. As one of the original class of Aunts, she has earned a particular level of autonomy, and she spends her days doing illicit writing exercises and compiling evidence against the men in power. As she watches more and more Gileadean leaders become corrupted, however, Aunt Lydia becomes involved with Mayday, working to bring down the regime.