Margaret Atwood announced today that she's writing a sequel to The Handmaid's Tale titled The Testaments that will hit shelves in September of 2019. The 1985 novel has always maintained an enduring popularity, but it rocketed back into the zeitgeist two years ago when Hulu adapted it into an Emmy-winning series starring Elisabeth Moss, Joseph Fiennes and Samira Wiley.
The dystopian novel imagines a near future in which the United States has been transformed into a right-wing theocracy called Gilead. The state eliminates women's rights almost completely, relegating them exclusively to domesticity and condemning any who resists to death or forced hard labor. Because of dangerously declining birth rates, any woman with a healthy reproductive system who hadn't married into the new regime becomes a handmaid, childbearing proxies for barren Gilead couples. The Handmaid's Tale is a first-person account of one such woman named Offred, and the novel famously ends ambiguously as Offred is either rescued by a resistance operation called May Day or arrested for her involvement with them. The epilogue reveals that the "novel" is Offred's personal account of her experiences and is being studied by a post-Gilead college class in Canada.
It's been over 30 years since the novel's publication, but this morning Atwood announced that we'll finally get another installment next year. The Testaments will be set 15 years after Offred's story ends and be told from three different female perspectives. No details as of yet on who those perspectives will belong to - if they'll be characters from the first book like Moira or Serena Joy or even Offred herself or if they'll be completely new characters.
Yes indeed to those who asked: I’m writing a sequel to The #HandmaidsTale. #TheTestaments is set 15 years after Offred’s final scene and is narrated by three female characters. It will be published in Sept 2019. More details: https://t.co/e1umh5FwpX pic.twitter.com/pePp0zpuif— Margaret E. Atwood (@MargaretAtwood) November 28, 2018
Hulu's series has largely outpaced the plot of the novel and gone on to expand the universe with new characters and stories. Offred's husband Luke and her friend Moira have had their stories in Canada significantly fleshed out and Bradley Whitford joined the cast as rueful Gilead architect Commander Joseph Lawrence in the back half of the second season. By and large the adjustments to Atwood's story have been well-received (perhaps in part because she's consulted on the show), but that in no way indicates for certain the author herself would follow similar patterns. At this point, we have no idea what to expect from The Testaments other than the fact that we'll see it next Fall.
Atwood explains in the video that she was inspired to write the sequel after the decades of questions from readers about Gilead and what happened after Offred's story ended, as well as "the world we've been living in." Atwood has been vocal about her disapproval of the current political regime and didn't mince words telling ABC's Nightline in March of this year, "We’re not living in Gilead yet, but there are Gilead-like symptoms going on."
The Handmaid's Tale was always intended to be cautionary in some degree, with Atwood insisting that everything that happened in the novel from the restriction of women's rights to legalized rape to gender and sexual persecution - all in the extreme - had happened in society before and wasn't her creation. It's hard not to infer that the current climate could've inspired her to sound the alarm once more.
Source: Margaret Atwood