With a power and truth that rock us — and through the medium of a woman who becomes vitally alive, important, and dear to us — Marge Piercy moves between a revelation of our present society and a startling twin projection of the possible future.
The woman “on the edge of time” is Consuelo (Connie) Ramos. A Chicana in New York City, she is in her mid-thirties, once beautiful, now worn and disheveled, once a college girl, now a pickpocket, both loving mother and “child abuser” (her child taken from her), a mourning widow (unmarried), a heroically sane woman labeled insane.
With her we experience the New York where Latinos live today without money or hope of it; where food, cleanliness, order, and peacefulness are Sunday luxuries; where life-force translates as violence. And with her we experience the mental hospital where, held against her will, she is faceless, invisible to the attendants, social workers, doctors. . . where whatever she says and does is received and recorded as “aggression,” as “bad patient behavior,” until suddenly she is valued at last as a potential subject for a frightening neuro-electric experiment on which hundreds of monkeys have already been “used up.”
And with her — as Connie’s determination grows to fight her way out of her powerlessness — we enter the two worlds of the possible future to which she is summoned. In one – the playful androgynous society of Mattapoisett, a hundred years from now, when the human person is paramount-we experience an enchanting, though imperiled, world of ceremony and civility that nurtures the infant, early frees the child from the possessiveness of its (three!) parents, puts technology to the uses of life, and encompasses death itself as part of the great adventure of living. And at its gate, the threatening armies of the other – the bleak and grotesque – future, in which the dividing line between person and thing has finally been eroded.
WOMAN ON THE EDGE OF TIME is at once a heightening of the novel of realism and a brilliant prophetic fable. It is Marge Piercy’s triumph to take us so wholly into the very being of a stranger that we come to perceive her fate as inseparable from our own.