More than 30 years after it was first published, Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale jumped to the No. 1 spot on Amazon's bestseller list this week. It's the the latest dystopian novel to receive a so-called "Trump bump," and for good reason.
You can't turn a corner these days without seeing "Make Margaret Atwood Fiction Again" or "Nolite te bastardes carborundorum," but the recent surge in Handmaid's popularity isn't just due to the Women's March on Washington. Or even to Trump, for that matter.
The Handmaid's Tale was one of three books purchased for San Francisco browsers by an anonymous benefactor on Friday. The highly anticipated Hulu adaptation of Atwood's novel had its very own Super Bowl spot Sunday night, which likely drove up sales as much as the country's recent slip into dystopian surreality.
Publisher Russell Perrault tells NPR that sales of The Handmaid's Tale "[went] up 60 percent" in 2016, with a "200 percent increase in sales" following the election. He also notes that Anchor Books has printed 125,000 copies of Atwood's novel in 2017 alone, and a total of 150,000 copies since November.
The Handmaid's Tale centers on Offred — literally, of-Fred — an otherwise unnamed narrator who has been separated from her family following a coup that turned the U.S. into the Republic of Gilead, a theocratic society in which women are not allowed to read, hold jobs, or own property. In this brave new world, Offred's age, sex, and marital status qualify her for the role of Handmaid.
The Handmaid's job seems simple — have ceremonial sex with a powerful man, give birth to a viable child for his wife to raise, and move on to the next family that needs her services — but widespread infertility and a high incidence of birth defects make it nearly impossible. Any Handmaid who does not produce healthy offspring within a limited amount of time is designated as an Unwoman, and shipped off to clean up radioactive waste in work camps.
"When I wrote it," Atwood says, "who knew? ... At this moment in U.S. history, quite a few people are worried that it's going that way."
Hulu's adaptation of The Handmaid's Tale premieres Apr. 26, and the book is available for purchase on Amazon.