The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is still my favorite book. I first encountered it as an excerpt in a magazine before the book was published in 1985. I was sitting in the Allwood Branch of the Clifton Library in Clifton, NJ when I read it. Scared the crap out of me.
At that moment in 1985, I was 21 and a three-time college dropout living at home with my mother. We weren’t getting along. At all. Her creepy boyfriend of many years had just moved out and the house stood in tatters from his lifestyle. But I was more broken than the house.
Having left honors programs at the University of Michigan, the University of Wisconsin and NYU, I started waitressing at a local restaurant, Charlie Brown’s. To say I was a terrible, terrible waitress would be impressively kind. I spent my days spilling on customers – strawberry dacquiris, french dressing, marinara sauce, gravy…
Before I came back home to New Jersey, during my final year of college, I only ate (gaining 80 pounds in six months) and had chronic insomnia. I never slept. Once I got back to my mother’s, other than work, I only slept. I’d wake up, go to work, come home and fall asleep. I’d fall asleep everywhere – at movies, in cars, waiting at doctor’s offices.
It felt like the end of my world. What was going to happen to me?
And yet my world didn’t end. My best friend, Frank, came home too (he’d actually graduated from college, of course) and we began to have fun again. I quit the restaurant (hallelujah) and got a fun job at a hair salon. I made new friends and moved out of my mom’s. Eventually, I went back to college and finished.
Life has had it’s ups and downs since then. Times are quite good these days. But although it’s been 32 years. The Handmaid’s Tale is still my favorite book.