‘The Handmaid’s Tale’: Will the Show Tie Into Margaret Atwood’s New Book?

Hulu has just renewed The Handmaid’s Tale for a fourth season, but new episodes are not the only things fans of the dystopian series can look forward to.

The author of the original novel, Margaret Atwood, will soon release a new novel in the same world called The Testaments. While details about this new book have been scarce so far, the publisher and Atwood have revealed that the new is a sequel and that it reflects what today’s world has become. 

Elisabeth Moss
Elisabeth Moss plays June in The Handmaid’s Tale. | Gary Gershoff/Getty Images

So how will it factor into the TV show? Or will it factor in at all?

What ‘The Testaments’ will cover

The new novel, due for release in September, seems to be a direct response to fan’s queries to Atwood. The publisher says: “When the van door slammed on Offred’s future at the end of The Handmaid’s Tale, readers had no way of telling what lay ahead. With The Testaments, the wait is over. Margaret Atwood’s sequel picks up the story 15 years after Offred stepped into the unknown, with the explosive testaments of three female narrators from Gilead.”

Meanwhile, Atwood herself tweeted: “Everything you’ve ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book. Well, almost everything! The other inspiration is the world we’ve been living in.”

Is ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ becoming real?

When the original novel was published in 1985, it was said to be set in the near future, and 2019 would certainly count as a near future. The world depicted in the book has become a totalitarian state, where women are demeaned in a patriarchal society.

Many people, including Atwood herself, have claimed that parts of the book have been frighteningly prescient. Women at various political protests have been seen wearing The Handmaid’s Tale costumes. Shortly after President Donald Trump took office in 2017, Atwood said that sales of The Handmaid’s Tale spiked. 

“When it first came out it was viewed as being far-fetched,” she said.  “However when I wrote it I was making sure I wasn’t putting anything into it that human beings had not already done somewhere at sometime.”

Atwood said that with increasing efforts to restrict abortions, “It’s back to 17th-century puritan values of New England at that time in which women were pretty low on the hierarchy”. 

Will the new novel be part of the TV show?

It is not yet known if the multiple Emmy-winning The Handmaid’s Tale TV show with Elisabeth Moss will adapt Atwood’s new book as part of the series, or if it would become its own separate series. Generally speaking, season 1 of the show covered the novel, so by necessity, subsequent seasons of the show had to cover a new story. 

There has been some speculation that the new book will cover the timely and divisive topic of climate change. The Chicago Review of Books noted that a significant portion of Atwood’s tweets are about that topic, and climate change has been a factor in the series, where half the population can no longer drive a car.

Tara Ariano, a blogger for Barnes & Noble, wrote: “As a critic of the show, I have sometimes been frustrated by moments when characters seemed to be making decisions for the sake of the plot … But even in moments like these, characters’ essential natures have remained true to their portrayal in Atwood’s novel.”

Since Atwood has remained involved with the show: “(June) he and her fellow Gileadean narrators will still be recognizable to those of us who’ve been watching her on Hulu for the past three seasons.”