Read what others are saying about Women's Work - the suspense novel with strong women struggling to decide the fate of gender equality in a dystopic science-fiction world!
From Beth Colvin at the Baton Rouge Advocate
Normally, I have issues with my suspension of disbelief. It’s a natural inclination not at all helped by a career in newspapers, and it presents quite the challenge for an author hoping to sway a reviewer.
Kari Aguila didn’t even miss a beat.
Her first novel deals with life after a great war which shattered society along gender lines. Women are now in charge and what men remain are either defeated on an almost molecular level or reduced to violent, ravaging bands.
Kate, who is a single mom to her two daughters and a son, is a pillar of her community. But when a strange man that fits neither of the aforementioned roles shows up seeking help for his sick son, she’s forced to question her community’s values.
“Women’s Work” is almost immediately engaging, with a story that moves at a clip. It’s easily readable while at the same time raising questions and issues that are bound to linger with the reader well after the book’s final period.
From The San Francisco Book Review
An undoubtedly post-apocalyptic tale of a Last War sending gender-roles to land on their topsy-turvy heads in an out-skirted community, Women’s Work is empowering and exhilarating. Kari Aguila creates a backdrop of a revolutionary society, except with no typical male bravado at the center, but instead infiltrated with laborious, self-sufficient women, who are by no means gender-normative or typical and are, by every sense of the word, avant-garde in their beings. Such is this matriarchal society that Aguila isolates in the novel, which sends many decades-old philosophies into a downward twist; the main character, Kate, is significant in the women’s uprising against men. As we start the story, the patriarchal system has been destroyed by the war, and there are few men left alive in the neighborhood—mostly those husbands who survived the war and fought alongside their wives—but the majority of the gender are obliterated by the alpha-females or have become stragglers in the wild. We enter this futuristic saga following major role reversals.
“With all the housework men do, they have little time to socialize, and rarely speak to women outside their family,”
Kari Aguila revisits the idea of what it takes to be a man in a new society and the implications of how it is reshaped with a resourceful convention, a rather interesting and daring portrayal of men with stereotypical feminine qualities and chores, like the long-contested kitchen job and domestic ease, whereas women are primal and thrilling as hunters, skilled defenders with weaponry, home repair workers and merchants at the market, and still keep a nurturing and parenting spirit with their own children and the children of the community. Nevertheless, women had to form armies and resistant forces because “to stop the horror of the war…they must first fight before they could make peace.” Much of the action in the novel is women struggling between being strong-willed and oppressive, having to be able to protect themselves against male organization but also having to make sure they don’t turn into the very thing they had feared most in men before the Last War: their nature of violence.
Women’s Work is by every definition a progressive, literary text, but it speaks beyond the fiction world and to the world of grandeur; it raises a lot of startling and imperative issues about what it takes to keep peace in a neighborhood, the intentions of women and peaceful solutions, what is gender equality, and the overall function of gender accountability in the unraveling threads of the social order. Though an extremely utopian and dream-like standing of women’s affairs in relation to men, the conditions of the community and sequence of events force a scholarly question: is this really gender equality as the true spirit of feminism deems it, or is it the exact same thing men have done to women for centuries, but with a palpable and decisive reasoning behind the old gender gambit?
The novel takes an unforeseen turn when a strange man and his sickly boy appear on Kate’s doorstep one day, leading to a series of visits, shared experiences, and a dangerous closeness with having them live in the shed, Kate is then forced to choose between protecting her family and this alienated man and boy over protecting her fellow women kin and the neighborhood they fought so painstakingly to create.Women’s Work challenges gender as we know it: a truly ambitious and largely indicative text of past and present theory and preoccupations. A commendable book, a timely perspective and critique on the thriving human condition and state of gender affairs and women’s rights world-wide. Kari Aguila is a pioneer for crafting such an overdue and particularly necessary contribution for readers everywhere.
Reviewed by Ed Bennett for IndieReader
WOMEN’S WORK, on the surface, is the story about a post-World War III world where women have taken charge of trying to create a new society from the rubble around them. As one reads further, however, it evolves into an examination of male and female stereotypes. Women now head families and govern themselves through “neighborhood” meetings while the few men left stay at home and have little to say about their governance (or much else).
Author Kari Aguila’s plot opens in medias res but with a series of well-placed flashbacks she paints a picture of this matriarchal society and its evolution. Women rebelled after the near total destruction of the planet and took charge. Rogue bands of soldiers roam the countryside looting and pillaging, giving credence to the women’s belief in their own superiority because they did not have the inherent violent streak found in men.
Kate, a survivor of the war and a neighborhood leader, works her farm and raises her three children, Margaret, Laura and Jonah. One evening a man approaches her farmhouse, something that should have cost his life but he held a sickly child, his son, in his arms. They have been living in the woods near her home and the child has a severe fever. Kate takes in the child and nurses him while keeping his father at a distance. Eventually she befriends both father and son attempting to integrate them into her neighborhood. The fear of both genders makes this difficult, at best, with both father and son in danger if they are discovered. Trust turns to panic as the reaction to these two “unattached” males spins out of control and violence ensues. The climactic ending involves a plot twist where the beliefs of the new order are questioned and the neighborhood comes to grips with the tenuous relationship between safety and violence.
WOMEN’S WORK is a well-written book with a moving story inhabited by believable characters. The emotions are genuine and the reactions to the social upheaval around them, while sometimes surprising, add even more credence to the story line. If the purpose of WOMEN’S WORK is to make a reader think, Aguila has achieved this.
From THE SELF-PUBLISHING REVIEW
Set in the future after the Last War, a bloody battle that wipes out most of the men, women decide enough is enough. Taking advantage of the situation and the fact that the majority of the male population were killed in the war, women rebuild their lives and neighborhoods. Not only that, they strip men of their power. Men aren’t allowed to take part in the government, they aren’t the heads of the households, and now they stay inside their homes and out of sight. Women’s Work by Kari Aguila is a well-written novel that will make you think long after you finish reading it.
The novel is a fascinating study of the "othering" process and how dangerous it can be to mark a group as “not one of us.” Existing throughout history, it’s allowed some groups to wipe out others almost entirely. Aguila’s novel demonstrates how marginalizing one group can give the false sense of security when in fact it perpetuates discrimination and raises the chances of brutality. Not only that, the brutality is “justified” via this process. The mentality of “us” versus “them” doesn’t leave much room for a gray area and it slams the door shut on dialogue between two parties. Aguila doesn’t preach to the reader, but shows how this happens through her characters.
Kate narrows her eyes and takes a step closer. “No. For the first time in the history of the world, we don’t have to be afraid. Not of the good men in our neighborhoods, at least.”
“If you’re not afraid, then why keep the men locked away in your houses? Why take away all our rights and freedom?” His eyes flash, and there is the hint of venom in his voice.
The beauty of this novel is that her critique of society and what could happen is subtle. The author pulls you into the story slowly and effortlessly, careful not to overplay her hand. Right from the start, the descriptions immerse the reader into a new world.
"SHE MOVES QUIETLY, mindful of her footfalls, to avoid the broken sections of blacktop. It has become her habit to walk cautiously, even in such well-used areas. Recent reports of raiders have made everyone wary of traveling alone. The woman listens for what might be coming around the next curve, or what might be hiding in the rubble of the burned-out buildings on both sides of her. The only sounds she hears are the rhythmic shush of her thin canvas pants and the subtle breeze rippling through the overgrown grass."
Another captivating aspect of this story is how people survive after the Last War. The author once again shows with descriptions of how her characters live. In today’s world things are easy. We flip a switch and a light turns on. Cell phones, grocery stores, cars, microwaves, and a hundred more gadgets that we may use at any given time are taken for granted. What would you do if you had to provide your own food, shelter, clothes—if you had to go back in time and take care of everything for yourself and your family? The reader is introduced to their way of life, including the hardships, the work, and scarcity. It’ll make you appreciate what you have now.
Kari Aguila’s novel is beautiful and terrifying all at once. Women’s Work doesn’t pull any punches. The story starts off methodically and the tension builds with each page, with characters and a story that lingers. At times it’s impossible to put the book down. However, try not to devour it too quickly since you may miss her beautiful descriptions of a life that may be on the horizon.