Book Reviews,  Starla Keith,  Words that matter

Words Matter

Blog Series: #1

From “The Testaments,The Sequel to “The Handmaid’s Tale,” by Margaret Atwood

I have always believed that what a person had to say was more important than how they said it. In terms of authenticity and sincerity, I still believe that to be true. However, as an avid reader, and lover of a good story, I am always reminded of the fact that individual words do matter. They have the power to change my reality… to transport. And as we are coming to understand now, more than ever before, they can be an instrument for change. The words themselves, each and every one, make a difference.  

When I am reading a novel, and come to a word that makes me pause, really pause… stop the story kind of pause… it’s either to think about what the word means and to remember why I love it or because I don’t know what it means and I have to look it up!

Every week, I will share with you my list of “words that matter” from a book that I am reading. I am not giving you a formal review or a plot summary.  Of course, being only human, you will get a sense of how the book affected me. I will give you my list of words along with the definition of each word that most closely represents the way the author uses it in the story.  Sometimes I will even tell you why I chose a particular word.

If you are so inspired, please comment. Tell me how the words make you feel. Or better yet, post your own list of “words that matter” from a book you are reading!

My thoughts on the book itself:

Full disclosure… I didn’t read “The Handmaid’s Tale”. I binged-watched Season One of the televised series a couple of years ago. I found it captivating for all the same reasons that made it a hit. A futuristic setting that seemed not too far-flung from where we could be as a society if darker influences get stronger. Haunting cinematography, costumes that are really terrifying, and a plot that correctly hits all the points for drama, suspense and intelligent religious, political and social commentary. It was a fun ten episodes, then I moved on. Not long ago, the sequel to the book, “The Testaments” (published in 2019) was being heavily recommended (pushed) on OverDrive, and since everything I wanted to read was on “Wait List,” I checked it out. 

In reading “The Testaments” I understood straight away why the first book was adapted several times over the years and was eventually made into a successful Hulu original series. Margaret Atwood is not your average novelist. She’s a prolific writer who voices what’s high in the world’s collective mind through stories, poems and non-fictional accounts that, more often than not, have a futuristic, feminist bent. Atwood’s writing forces you to think and compels you to keep turning pages.

I had to think about why I found “The Testaments” so compelling yet hadn’t bothered to watch more than one season of “The Handmaid’s Tale”, nor read the book. It was about perspective. It was because of “Aunt Lydia” and the depth of realization that came with experiencing how an antagonist (as she is in “The Handmaid’s Tale”) can also be a protagonist (as she is in “The Testaments”) like in real life, given the right words to be a testament to a particular situation.

What really terrified me about the state of Gilead, even more than the aspects of female slavery, widespread corruption, or the way barren females were labeled “unwomen” and how men could not possibly be sterile, was the fact that only men were allowed to be literate, and that an overwhelming prevalence of censorship can actually cripple a society.

I find complete happiness in the poetic justice of the words “manuscripts,” “transcripts” and “testaments,” which all play such a significant role in the fate of Gilead.

Words that matter: (I have used definitions from the online dictionaries of Oxford, Merriam Webster, Cambridge, Collins and

Edification – the instruction or improvement of a person morally or intellectually.

Apostasy – the abandonment or renunciation of a religious or political belief.

Recalcitrance – the quality of being determined not to do what other people, especially people in authority, want or expect to be done.

Screed – an informal piece of writing that is usually lengthy.

Mercy – compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.

Champagne – a white sparkling wine associated with celebration and regarded as a symbol of luxury. Okay, I’ve had a love affair with Champagne since my in-laws in Malibu fed it to me by the cases morning, noon and night!

Tête-à-tête – borrowed from French, literally “head to head,” a private conversation happening between two people. I’m pretty sure that I have never said this expression in my life. I kind of want to because it sounds like such a special, intimate event.

Verities – a true principle or belief, especially one of fundamental importance.

Lustful – usually intense or unbridled sexual desire; lecherous. I only find the last word offensive😊

Erudite – having or showing great knowledge or learning.

Zeitgeist – borrowed from German, literally “the spirit of the time,” the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time.

Dandelions – a weedy composite plant, having edible, deeply toothed or notched leaves, golden-yellow flowers, and rounded clusters of white, hairy seeds. I love Dandelions, to eat, to make jewelry and to blanket my yard. I know that’s weird since they are basically invasive weeds.

Novelistic – characteristic of or used in novels, especially in style or method of treatment. Obviously!

Looking at the words I have chosen from“The Testaments”, I realize that unwittingly they reflect some of the more potent concepts explored by Attwood.  Power, politics, sex, manipulation and the importance of speech as a weapon against the injustices that can be wrought upon individuals.

Stay tuned for my next list of words that matter!

Don’t go yet, dear Reader… If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to share! We´d also love to hear about what you’re reading and those wonderful words that matter to you. Please leave a comment and tell us!


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