Winner of the 2017 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction in the U.K., Naomi Alderman's (The Liars' Gospel) sci-fi thriller The Power asks how humanity's oldest balance of power would shift if women suddenly had strength beyond that of men.
After the Day of the Girls, the world is never the same again. Video online shows teenage girls delivering electrical shocks with their bare hands that can leave a grown man crying in agony. Soon the isolated incidents become widespread as young women all over the globe discover the power of the skein, an extra organ that lies along the collarbones and discharges electricity. The power awakens in girls everywhere: Roxy, a British crime lord's daughter who witnessed her mother's murder; Allie, an abused foster girl whose powers manifest alongside a mysterious voice in her head; and Jocelyn, an American teen who awakens the same dormant power in her mother, Margot, an ambitious politician. The girls are only the beginning. Like Margot, many grown women also carry skeins, and a touch of electricity from an active skein will wake a dormant one. Soon governments and families must accept that the power is the new reality. Over the coming years, it will change religions, borders and the order of human society as Allie, Roxy, Margot and other prominent women build followings and head toward a great collision.
Ostensibly the manuscript of a historical novel by a far-future male author, the story is bookended by letters between the humble writer and his condescending female editor, who calls him "you saucy boy" and patronizes the quaint idea of a patriarchal society as "a kinder, more caring and--dare I say it?--more sexy world." The author's is one of a scarce few male voices in the narrative, represented most notably by Tunde, a young man from Nigeria who posts the first video of the power in action and begins to travel the world to document its rise.
Alderman has built a suspenseful thrill ride filled with deep, contrasting female leads on a scaffolding of philosophical questions about how different men and women are at heart. Though her hypothetical underpinnings are based in biological gender only, Alderman does not ignore the variety present in nature; due to a chromosomal condition, Jocelyn's first boyfriend has an active skein. Reminiscent of the work of Alderman's mentor Margaret Atwood, The Power is perfect for book clubs, where readers will undoubtedly debate the finer points of nature versus nurture and whether a power shift can reverse a lifetime of socialization in middle-aged women. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads
Shelf Talker: When the world wakes up one day to find that women possess the power to electrocute with a touch, human society changes forever.