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In a future dystopian land (formerly the United States of America), the story tells of Kate, a "handmaid". Kate is a criminal, guilty of the crime of trying to escape and sentenced to become a Handmaid. Handmaids' sole function is to bear the children of influential men whose wives (like most women) have been rendered infertile due to pollution. After rigorous group training by "Aunt" Lydia ("Aunts" train and discipline handmaids) in the proper way to behave, Kate is assigned as Handmaid to the Commander. Kate is attracted to Nick, the Commander's chauffeur. At the same time, a resistance movement begins to challenge the regime.