I’m sort of sad that…

since I read When She Woke by Hillary Jordan because of a review that compared/contrasted it with The Handmaid’s Tale, I finished the whole book before I realized how much it’s a story about the Underground Railroad.  (Discussion of the plot to follow.)

First there’s the basic plot.  The story takes place in a future United States which has only recently recovered from a plague that caused sterility.  Abortion has been criminalized as murder, and the overcrowded prison system has been replaced with a treatment that changes criminals’ skin color for a set number of years.  Convicted criminals are allowed to live in society and do as they please (as long as they check in regularly to have the skin treatment renewed) but discrimination makes it difficult to survive– no one wants to hire criminals, and a few people even try to carry out vigilante death sentences.  The main characters try to escape to Canada, where the government has denounced the United States’ new punishment system and will reverse the skin color changes.  They fall in with an organization that runs a series of safe houses and provides cars for refugees.

Unbeknownst to the main characters, the organization that helps them is also using them as bait.  Refugees have been disappearing from their pipeline, and they are trying to find out whether any of their people are involved.  The main characters do find the problem– a charming man who needs to finance repairs for his lovely old plantation house, and is willing to sell them into forced prostitution to do it.

So not only is the path of their escape very much like the Underground Railroad, there’s even an appropriate villain.

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