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Vox
Cover of Vox
Vox
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NATIONAL BESTSELLER
ONE OF ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY'S AND SHEREADS' BOOKS TO READ AFTER THE HANDMAID'S TALE
"[An] electrifying debut."—O, The Oprah Magazine *
"The real-life parallels will make you shiver."—Cosmopolitan
Set in a United States in which half the population has been silenced, Vox is the harrowing, unforgettable story of what one woman will do to protect herself and her daughter.

On the day the government decrees that women are no longer allowed more than one hundred words per day, Dr. Jean McClellan is in denial. This can't happen here. Not in America. Not to her.
Soon women are not permitted to hold jobs. Girls are not taught to read or write. Females no longer have a voice. Before, the average person spoke sixteen thousand words each day, but now women have only one hundred to make themselves heard.
For herself, her daughter, and every woman silenced, Jean will reclaim her voice.
This is just the beginning...not the end.
One of Good Morning America's "Best Books to Bring to the Beach This Summer"
One of PopSugar, Refinery29, Entertainment Weekly, Bustle, Real Simple, i09, and Amazon's Best Books to Read in August 2018
NATIONAL BESTSELLER
ONE OF ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY'S AND SHEREADS' BOOKS TO READ AFTER THE HANDMAID'S TALE
"[An] electrifying debut."—O, The Oprah Magazine *
"The real-life parallels will make you shiver."—Cosmopolitan
Set in a United States in which half the population has been silenced, Vox is the harrowing, unforgettable story of what one woman will do to protect herself and her daughter.

On the day the government decrees that women are no longer allowed more than one hundred words per day, Dr. Jean McClellan is in denial. This can't happen here. Not in America. Not to her.
Soon women are not permitted to hold jobs. Girls are not taught to read or write. Females no longer have a voice. Before, the average person spoke sixteen thousand words each day, but now women have only one hundred to make themselves heard.
For herself, her daughter, and every woman silenced, Jean will reclaim her voice.
This is just the beginning...not the end.
One of Good Morning America's "Best Books to Bring to the Beach This Summer"
One of PopSugar, Refinery29, Entertainment Weekly, Bustle, Real Simple, i09, and Amazon's Best Books to Read in August 2018
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Excerpts-
  • From the book ***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected copy proof*** Copyright © 2018 Christina Dalcher

    CHAPTER ONE

    If anyone told me I could bring down the president, and the Pure Movement, and that incompetent little shit Morgan LeBron in a week's time, I wouldn't believe them. But I wouldn't argue. I wouldn't say a thing.

    I've become a woman of few words.

    Tonight at supper, before I speak my final syllables of the day, Patrick reaches over and taps the silver-toned device around my left wrist. It's a light touch, as if he were sharing the pain, or perhaps reminding me to stay quiet until the counter resets itself at midnight. This magic will happen while I sleep, and I'll begin Tuesday with a virgin slate. My daughter, Sonia's, counter will do the same.

    My boys do not wear word counters.

    Over dinner, they are all engaged in the usual chatter about school.

    Sonia also attends school, although she never wastes words discussing her days. At supper, between bites of a simple stew I made from memory, Patrick questions her about her progress in home economics, physical fitness, and a new course titled Simple Accounting for Households. Is she obeying the teachers? Will she earn high marks this term? He knows exactly the type of questions to ask: closed-ended, requiring only a nod or a shake of the head.

    I watch and listen, my nails carving half-moons into the flesh of my palms. Sonia nods when appropriate, wrinkles her nose when my young twins, not understanding the importance of yes/no interrogatives and finite answer sets, ask their sister to tell them what the teachers are like, how the classes are, which subject she likes best. So many open-ended questions. I refuse to think they do understand, that they're baiting her, teasing out words. But at eleven, they're old enough to know. And they've seen what happens when we overuse words.

    Sonia's lips quiver as she looks from one brother to another, the pink of her tongue trembling on the edge of her teeth or the plump of her lower lip, a body part with a mind of its own, undulating. Steven, my eldest, extends a hand and touches his forefinger to her mouth.

    I could tell them what they want to know: All men at the front of the classrooms now. One-way system. Teachers talk. Students listen. It would cost me sixteen words.

    I have five left.

    "How is her vocabulary?" Patrick asks, knocking his chin my way. He rephrases. "Is she learning?"

    I shrug. By six, Sonia should have an army of ten thousand lexemes, individual troops that assemble and come to attention and obey the orders her small, still-plastic brain issues. Should have, if the three R's weren't now reduced to one: simple arithmetic. After all, one day my daughter will be expected to shop and run a household, to be a devoted and dutiful wife. You need math for that, but not spelling. Not literature. Not a voice.

    "You're the cognitive linguist," Patrick says, gathering empty plates, urging Steven to do the same.

    "Was."

    "Are."

    In spite of my year of practice, the extra words leak out before I can stop them: "No. I'm. Not."

    Patrick watches the counter tick off another three entries. I feel the pressure of each on my pulse like an ominous drum. "That's enough, Jean," he says.

    The boys exchange worried looks, the kind of worry that comes from knowing what occurs if the counter surpasses those three digits. One, zero, zero. This is when I say my last Monday word. To my daughter. The whispered "Goodnight" has barely escaped when Patrick's eyes meet mine, pleading.

    I scoop her up and carry her off to bed. She's heavier now, almost too much girl to be hoisted up, and I...

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    June 11, 2018
    In her provocative debut, linguist Dalcher imagines a near future in which speech and language—or the withholding thereof—are instruments of control. The election of a conservative president with a charismatic (and psychotic) religious advisor is merely the final straw in a decades-long trend toward repression and authoritarianism. For years, cognitive linguist Jean McClellan, a well-educated white woman, chose to immerse herself in academia rather than become politically active, even as signs of authoritarianism were proliferating. Now, however, a year after the election, women in the United States have been limited to speaking no more than 100 words per day or face painful consequences. When the President’s brother suffers an accident that affects his brain’s speech centers, Jean might be able to leverage her expertise to restore her status. Dalcher’s narrative raises questions about the links between language and authority; most chilling is the specter of young girls being starved of language and, consequently, the capacity to think critically. The novel’s muddled climax and implausible denouement fail to live up to its intriguing premise. Nevertheless, Dalcher’s novel carries an undeniably powerful message.

  • Kirkus

    June 15, 2018
    In the not-too-distant future, American women and girls are allowed a quota of 100 spoken words per day, after which each syllable triggers electrocution via wrist band.Narrator Dr. Jean McClellan, wife and mother of four, is a cognitive linguist at the top of her field--or she was, until the government was hijacked by fundamentalists led by Reverend Carl, architect of the patriarchal Pure Movement and close adviser to the president. Under Reverend Carl's direction, women are no longer allowed to hold jobs or bank accounts, study biology or physics, or, most punishingly, to speak more than 100 words a day, read, or write. When the president's influential older brother is in an accident and damages his Wernicke's area--the part of the brain that controls language--Jean is temporarily called out of forced retirement (and silence) to resume work on a cure. Along for the ride is Lorenzo, Jean's smoldering Italian colleague--and erstwhile lover. In flashbacks, Jackie, Jean's radical grad school roommate, warns her about the rising tide of fundamentalism and condemns her unwillingness to engage. There are welcome glimmers of insight in the narrative, such as when one black character reminds Jean of the importance of intersectional feminism: "Look, I don't mean to be unkind, but you white gals, all you're worried about is, well, all you're worried about is you white gals." Like Jean, first-time novelist Dalcher has a background in linguistics, and the story sometimes gets bogged down in technical jargon, including multiple explanations of the function of an MRI. The ending of the novel, while surprising, is rushed, unearned, and the least convincing part of a story that continually challenges the reader's suspension of disbelief.The oppression of women is an ever relevant topic. Dalcher's premise is tantalizing, but the execution of her thought experiment--what happens when women's voices are taken, in the most literal sense?-- quickly devolves into the stuff of workaday thrillers.

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    August 1, 2018

    Jean McClellan was a neurolinguist and mother of four before the Pure Woman movement swept the nation. Now, like all women, she wears a counter that tracks every word she speaks--no more than 100 a day. If she goes over the limit, she's painfully shocked. Her son's superior attitude only emphasizes that her daughter is speaking less and less. What happens to society when 50 percent of the population's voices, along with their ability to even learn language, are taken away? This work begs comparison to Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, as both feature religious governments forcing women to become subservient, but here the focus is on technological control, rather than fertility. Neurolinguistics and technology balance a compelling narrative shot through with genuine emotion. Jean is multilayered, with definite faults that enrich rather than detract from the story's momentum. VERDICT Dalcher reflects current politics in a clarion call against apathy in a page-turning first novel that is perfect for fans of speculative fiction or women's studies and ripe fodder for book club discussions.--Charli Osborne, Oak Park P.L., MI

    Copyright 2018 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    July 1, 2018
    Language and women's facility with it are the focal points of linguist Dalcher's chilling dystopian tale and first novel. Jean McClellan and her family live in a U.S. taken over by religious extremists who have forced the female population to wear electroshock bracelets that deliver painful charges to any woman who speaks over 100 words a day. Jean, a scientist whose research centered around a neurological condition that causes aphasia, is forced to watch in virtual silence as her three sons become indoctrinated and her six-year-old daughter tries to speak as little as possible. Jean's marriage grows strained as her husband goes along with the new regime. She is then offered a potential respite when government officials come to her for help after the president's brother is diagnosed with the very condition for which she had been seeking a cure before women were forbidden to work. With its focus on the vitality of communication and human interactions, Dalcher's tale is a fresh and terrifying contribution to the burgeoning subgenre about women-focused dystopias spearheaded by Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2018, American Library Association.)

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Christina Dalcher
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