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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
The Auction by Elci North is a speculative fiction novel set in a moderately near future where the laws surrounding reproductive rights have drastically changed. Rape is a myth. Women are at their best in the home. Their husbands are the best caretakers. Babies are the government's golden geese and are sold to the highest bidders. North develops the stories of four pregnant women and narrates them from their own point of view. Each has a unique backstory and all are radically different. Jane, Angelica, Wendy, and Millie are all victims of the system, and all as different from each other as any four women could possibly be. But they share one fate in the lead-up to their babies being born and auctioned: The Home for Pregnant Women, aka pregnancy prison.
Elci North creates a fantastically creative new government order under a utilitarian rule in The Auction. I love how just enough aspects of American society remain unchanged to keep the general population subdued by way of “it could be much worse” gaslighting. The writing is exceptional. I loved the way each woman's predicament paved their path of misery to the prison, and how none had even the tiniest shred of agency to prevent what happened to them. The auction itself is unique in that it is the women and the husbands they conceived their babies with, like it or not, who are the bidders. Everyone there has had their biological child put into the auction listing, and each will leave with a baby; one that is unlikely to be theirs and that comes with a price tag they can afford. The way the women come together is organic, as is the dialogue and the believability of their backstory. I went into this book out of curiosity and came out the other side as an Elci North fan. Very, very highly recommended.