A Gate to a Strange Land

The Gate to Women’s Country by Sheri S. Tepper

Grade: B

The Gate to Women’s Country takes place in a postapocalyptic world. Forced to eke out a rough living in the lands between “desolations” (vast radioactive areas where nothing will grow) the women have decided that the only way for the human race to survive is to curb the militarism of men. The women do the majority of work and make all the rules while the men live in military garrisons just outside the towns. The men meet with the women during scheduled “assignations,” and any boy children that come from those unions must leave Women’s Country at age 5 to live among the men. At 15, the boys are given the choice whether to stay with the men or rejoin the women. Most choose to be warriors, and much of the story focuses on the pain the women suffer when they give up their children, when they are rejected by their teenage sons, and when they lose their warrior men to the battlefield.

In spite of the extreme feminist bent, the bleak assessment of male-female relationships, and the focus on sorrow, I still might have given this book an “A” had the author not gone to Inbred Hick Land about two-thirds of the way through. At page 180, I put the book down in disgust and almost didn’t pick it up again. I stuck to it, though, and having read it all the way through, I think it’s a decent book overall, but I caution potential readers—you may not like what Tepper writes in that section. The men are vile and the women are cruelly mistreated. The images are still with me and they are deeply disturbing.

Sheri S. Tepper writes powerful books. I don’t always like them, but they almost always affect me strongly. That’s why, even though she has written some truly horrendous things, I continue to read her work.

I have several of her books in my library, but I’m not going to read all of them during the GLP. Here’s what I have decided to do with them.

  • The Gate to Women’s Country: This one will go. I have no interest in rereading it in the future.
  • Raising the Stones: This one will also go. I remember reading it, and I know I found it interesting at the time, but I can’t recall any of the details of the story. It is one of the few Tepper books that did not leave a strong impression, and I figure that means it’s not worth reading again.
  • Grass: I’m going to keep this one. It’s disturbing but also very good.
  • After Long Silence: I’m going to reread this one to see if it’s as beautiful as I remember.
  • Beauty: If I still own this one, I’ll try to read it, but I won’t give it any more than 100 pages to win me over. I remember being thoroughly disgusted the first time I tried to read it.
  • Jinian Star-Eye: If I still own it, it will go directly to the Chopping Block because I didn’t like it that much (not surprisingly, since it’s the 9th book of a series and I didn’t read the other 8!)
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