The terrifying dystopian world of Gilead comes to an abrupt stop at the end of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale when protagonist Offred is carted off to an unknown fate. But not so fast — a new change in the audiobook hints at a sequel to the 1986 classic.
In the new audiobook, which is narrated by Claire Danes, Atwood has updated the original ending. Previously, it consisted of Professor Pieixoto’s lecture on the world of Gilead the reader has just been immersed in. In a jarring jump, the story leaps from Gilead to the year 2195, when the events of the story are ancient history.
The old version simply ends with him asking, “Are there any questions?” The new version, however, ends with him saying, “I hope to be able to present the results of our further Gileadian investigations to you at some future date.”
Margaret Atwood coyly gave a follow up along the lines of “no promises but yes.” She said, “I am in consultation with the Professor, but he is being very cagey about this. He evidently doesn’t want to make any promises before he has finished authenticating his new discoveries.”
These “new discoveries” are unlikely to revolve around the novel’s protagonist Offred. At the end of the story — spoiler alert — she steps into a van that is either being driven by the resistance movement or is about to cart her off to her doom. When the narrative then jumps ahead to Professor Pieixoto’s, her story is lost on the wind. However, the impending Hulu show is expanding upon side characters like her fellow Handmaid Offglen or friend Moira.
A sequel could therefore hone in on one of those characters, dive into Serena Joy’s past, or chose an entirely new Handmaid who is further involved in the Mayday movement. Gilead has plenty of corners to plumb, and no modern dystopian author is as witty as Atwood.