Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood

I remember when I first read an Atwood. It started with “The Handmaid’s Tale” back when I was in college and I was floored. I was going through a phase of angst and Ms. Atwood somehow added to it in a big way. At that tiime, only two writers mattered the most to be – Ayn Rand and Margaret Atwood. May be George Orwell as well – however that came second close to Atwood. “The Blind Assassin” further affirmed my belief in the writer and her powers. She writes with a vengeance and how – not that she chooses to (I assume), however words flow freely for this writer and only end up captivating her readers to the very core.

Moral Disorder is a collection of 11 stories by Ms. Atwood. Each one stands alone and towards the end the reader is left gaping – as the stories converge and stand alone as a novel – the character of a woman, which is a first-rate character study.

All stories deal with the life of one woman – Nell, who is a stereotypical everyday “Canadian” woman. The only thing that sets her apart are the choices she makes and how they govern her life or change the direction of her life. These are everyday choices with a moral compass twist – about the mysterious unpredictability of life and how one gets thrown into situations. At one point Nell assess the situation and asks herself, “What if I missed a turn somewhere —- missed my own future?” and it is  lines like these that compel me to read every book written by Margaret Atwood.

The stories are set for us and read like memories of a person. Some told in first one, and some written as third-person narratives. Spanning six decades the stories take your breath away. Moral Disorders is like a series of disjointed photographs – seen to the reader in no chronological order.

Atwood admits that many of events in these stores have strong autobiographical roots. This becomes achingly apparent in the last two stories where Atwood delivers a heart-wrenching first-person narrative about–what is purposefully in this story–an unnamed mature protagonist serving as loving caretaker of rapidly declining elderly parents. These parents could easily fit in with what we know about Nell, and what we know about Atwood. These pieces show Atwood at the height of her talent. These are pieces woven of pure magic and unconditionally every-lasting love.

In this work Atwood gives us nothing short of real life–random, disordered, unpredictable–but life embraced lovingly with open arms despite all these uncertainties and the ultimate terror of that last unknown.


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