Book Review: The Power by Naomi Alderman

This has one of the more expert “turn society on its head” premises I’ve ever come across. One day, young women around the world begin to discover an ability to create electricity with their bodies. In the days that follow, it spreads to women and girls everywhere, all of whom now have the ability to hurt, manipulate, or kill with the power in their bodies. But in a foundationally patriarchal world, what does that kind of power do to the way we live our lives?

This is Naomi Alderman’s answer to that question, and it’s gritty as hell. She pulls no punches, she strays away from no violence or rawness. This is a bleak, but honest narrative of what happens when the state of the world changes in a week. It follows several primary characters, whose stories are each stark and powerful within this new world. One is a formerly abused foster child who becomes a face for the new world. Another is the incredibly powerful daughter of gang members, who has enemies and influence in equal portion. Another is a political leader, trying to turn the tides of the changing government in her favor. The last is a Nigerian man who finds himself becoming the world’s lens for the spreading conflict and violence.

As a whole, these characters and their stories form an exquisitely paced, emotional gut punch of a book that will force you to ask a lot of questions about society and our roles in it. What happens when the world shifts overnight? This book comes to plenty of conclusions to answer that by the end, and they’re not quite what you’d expect .

This is a story about gender and humanity and visual culture and war and desperation and human connection. It’s wide in scope, which can feel overwhelming in times. However, it also feels like a proper expression of the magnitude of the story Alderman sets out to deliver. And deliver she does.