WOMEN’S WORK, on the surface, is the story about a post-World War III world where women have taken charge of trying to create a new society from the rubble around them. As one reads further, however, it evolves into an examination of male and female stereotypes. Women now head families and govern themselves through “neighborhood” meetings while the few men left stay at home and have little to say about their governance (or much else).
Author Kari Aguila’s plot opens in medias res but with a series of well-placed flashbacks she paints a picture of this matriarchal society and its evolution. Women rebelled after the near total destruction of the planet and took charge. Rogue bands of soldiers roam the countryside looting and pillaging, giving credence to the women’s belief in their own superiority because they did not have the inherent violent streak found in men. Kate, a survivor of the war and a neighborhood leader, works her farm and raises her three children, Margaret, Laura and Jonah. One evening a man approaches her farmhouse, something that should have cost his life but he held a sickly child, his son, in his arms. They have been living in the woods near her home and the child has a severe fever. Kate takes in the child and nurses him while keeping his father at a distance. Eventually she befriends both father and son attempting to integrate them into her neighborhood. The fear of both genders makes this difficult, at best, with both father and son in danger if they are discovered. Trust turns to panic as the reaction to these two “unattached” males spins out of control and violence ensues. The climactic ending involves a plot twist where the beliefs of the new order are questioned and the neighborhood comes to grips with the tenuous relationship between safety and violence.
WOMEN’S WORK is a well-written book with a moving story inhabited by believable characters. The emotions are genuine and the reactions to the social upheaval around them, while sometimes surprising, add even more credence to the story line. If the purpose of WOMEN’S WORK is to make a reader think, Aguila has achieved this.
Reviewed by Ed Bennett for IndieReader.