Wow. This book was chilling.
Reminiscent of Orwell's 1984, this book takes place in a futuristic America in which sexuality is completely controlled by the government, and women have no rights. As a handmaid, the narrator's job is to breed. Therefore she must lay with another woman's husband,between the wife's legs, hoping to conceive, carry, and birth their child. Other options for non-elite women include servitude (but not all women are allowed this option), prostitution, or being sent away to "the colonies", an area plagued by toxicity due to (I think) nuclear devastation.
The scariest part of the book was that the narrator was once a free woman, with a child and a man who left his wife for her. She worked, she discussed women's liberation with her lesbian-feminist mother and best friend, she lived a life similar to ours (although society was already plagued by environmental and other issues, seriously affecting the birth rate). There were moments where she talked about the changes taking place that frightened me terribly, because it seems almost possible. Hell, in some places in the world it is more than possible. It is reality.
The ending disappointed me. Actually, that is an understatement. It infuriated me. But as time has passed since I finished the book, I'm feeling more comfortable with the way the book ended. I have also found myself thinking a lot more deeply about gender roles and how we deal with sexuality in this country. I would recommend this thought-provoking novel to just about anyone.