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The Canadian author didn't need to publish any new fiction to make news in 2018. "The Handmaid's Tale," released more than 30 years ago and dramatized in an acclaimed Hulu series, continued to rank with George Orwell's "1984" as a defining dystopian text for the current time. Questions from readers about the imagined country of Gilead, a brutal patriarchy that didn't seem very fictional, were so persistent that Atwood finally changed her mind about writing a sequel and announced that "The Testaments" would come out in 2019.

In her new book, the Bay Area author compares the brevity of life to free theater in the park: “glorious and tedious; full of wonder and often hard to understand.”