I used to be as aimless as a feather in the wind. I thought stuff on the news and in the papers was for grownups. It was part of their stupid miserable complicated world, it didn’t touch me. – from the ARC of The Testament of Jessie Lamb, page 5 –
Jessie Lamb is sixteen and living in a world where pregnant women are doomed to die from a virus. Not just one or two pregnant woman…all pregnant women. Scientists are working hard to find a vaccine, but women will still die, even if their children can be protected from the virus. As Jessie and her friends gather together, outraged at adults who have devastated their world, they vow to do something to change things.
The Testament of Jessie Lamb opens in Jessie’s voice as she is held captive by an unnamed person, and Jessie tells the reader it is her intent to set down her story and explain a decision she has made. From there, the novel goes back to reveal the events leading up to the present.
I read to page 120 (half way), but I did not finish this novel for a couple of reasons. First of all, I did not relate to Jessie’s voice. I can’t really articulate why her voice did not resonate with me, but I found myself feeling detached from Jessie and her friends, and annoyed with their parents, and depressed about their lives. Another reason I set the book aside was that I figured out very quickly who Jessie’s captor was and why she was being held captive – and so, the novel lost its tension for me. I felt like I already knew how it would end.
This is not to say that the novel is poorly written – it isn’t. In fact, The Testament of Jessie Lamb was long listed for the prestigious Booker Prize, so it is not without literary merit. The major themes in the book – women’s rights, environmental catastrophe, and religious fervor – are all timely subjects in today’s world. Rogers injects teenage angst and outrage into the mix, exploring the idealism of youth and the battle between parents and children in the quest for independence.
All that said, this was not a book with which I wanted to spend a lot of time. I found it desperate, dark, and sad. Perhaps I just wanted to bury my head in the sand and think “no, this could never happen.” Perhaps I just did not want to go there.
The Testament of Jessie Lamb is being discussed over on Nicole’s blog here (be aware that comments contain spoilers), and many readers have found a lot to like about the book. I do think it makes for a lively discussion because of the subject matter. I also think that teens and young adults may relate better to the protagonist than adults do.
So, this was not my cuppa tea – but maybe it will resonate with you.
FTC Disclosure: This book was sent to me by the publisher as part of BOOK CLUB.
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