Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

Hag-Seed Margaret AtwoodAs the Art Director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival in Canada, Felix was at the top of his game.  While still grieving for the loss of his wife in childbirth years ago and his child more recently, he is in the middle of staging his finest work, William Shakespeare’s Tempest.  It will be his best production ever and help heal his grief for Miranda, his three-year-old daughter who died of Meningitis.  When he’s unexpectedly stabbed in the back and forced out of his position, Felix exiles himself in a backwoods shack to lick his wounds and plot his revenge. 

When an unexpected teaching opportunity arises are at a nearby prison, Felix jumps at the chance.  This literacy course for prisoners will become his new theatre.  Enter the Burgess Correctional Players with their annual course and production of one of Shakespeare’s works.  Now, Felix’s enemies are in positions of power over his current position and they are going to be evaluating Felix’s program.  With the help of his students he will once again have the chance to stage Tempest and get the revenge he seeks. 

Familiarity with William Shakespeare’s Tempest is not a requirement when reading this novel, but does give readers a leg up on what will be coming next.  Margaret Atwood does a wonderful job of retelling this play in a real world setting and even includes an actual revenge plot for the characters.  The prisoners are putting on a production of the Tempest but they are also helping Felix with his revenge in a secondary version as well with his enemies unknowingly playing their parts.  It was really well done and keeps readers coming back.

The ‘real’ aspects of Ms. Atwood’s writing are pretty phenomenal.  Not only can readers see a program like this working in many different classroom settings but the betrayal and revenge scenarios are realistic and doable.  Made popular recently by the television show based on the 1980s novel The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood continues to impress with her newest novel.

Susana Goldman is the Associate Director of Operations for the Alamance County Public Library.  She can be reached at sgoldman@alamancelibraries.org.