Monthly Archives: January 2019

Severance, by Ling Ma

What would you do if it were the end of the world? How would you feel? Sad? Scared? I, for one, would be utterly panicked. In Ling Ma’s dystopian novel, Severance, it’s the end of the world, and surprisingly, her main character is not panicking.

severance

The story is set in modern times with very modern references springing on the pages to remind you that society is now run by millenials. Our protagonist, Candace Chen, is one of them. Candace works the same boring 9 to 5 job making Gemstone Bibles, hangs out with her boyfriend watching movies in his basement, and in her spare time she works on her blog, NY Ghost. Her parents recently died and with her extended relatives all in China, she’s essentially alone.

Then, the epidemic of Shen Fever plagues the world, an illness that turns people into mindless drones. Candace amazingly survives the epidemic, and goes on to find another small group of survivors, led by Bob, a crazed former IT employee with a god-like complex.

While reading this book, I asked myself: why is this book called “Severance”? And I then realized it’s the perfect title. It’s about Candace’s separation from everything in her world. She separated from China when she immigrated to the US at age 6. She separated from her parents when they died, her boyfriend when he left New York, her job when it shut down, and society, when it eventually crumbled.

The story is dark, but also slightly satirical. Ma’s descriptions of the people who were affected by Shen Fever are creepy. It’s certainly not a way I’d like to go. If there’s a disease that is affecting millions of people, I wouldn’t want it to be Shen Fever… maybe something that would kill me a little quicker!

I read a lot of other reviews for “Severance” and saw that many people were unsatisfied with the ending. Without giving away anything, I can say that the ending was about what I would have expected. I knew that there couldn’t be a great conclusion. I mean… we’re talking about the end of the world here. How good of an ending could there be? Still, I wouldn’t be against a possible sequel to see if there’s maybe more to the story.

Golden Child, by Claire Adam

golden childI confess the main reason why I chose this book from January’s Book of the Month Club was because it takes place in Trinidad and it was written by a Trini author, Claire Adam. Although I, myself am not from there, my husband is. Since we’ve been married, we’ve traveled back and forth to Trinidad several times. So I was very excited to pick up this book!

The story is about a family that lives in rural Trinidad. The father, Clyde, works long hours and is having trouble providing for his wife, Joy, and their sons, Peter and Paul. Although the two boys are twins, they are nothing alike. Peter excels in school and has a promising future, while Paul is the complete opposite. The parents assume that Paul struggles because of complications he experienced during birth.

One night, after Paul doesn’t show up home from school, Clyde goes out to find him. Hours become days and still, there is no sign of Paul. As Clyde slowly unravels the mystery of what happens to his son, he must make a decision that will affect the family dramatically.

Although the book is sort of a slow burn, I really appreciated the vivid descriptions used by the author to describe Trinidad. Far too often, when I hear people talk about the island nation, I only hear the same things over and over again. It’s beautiful and laid back. The food is delicious. It’s the home of Calypso and Carnival. All of those things are true. But it’s a little more complicated than that.

triniscenic

Like any other country, Trinidad has its problems, particularly with poverty and crime. Adam does not shy away from this in her story and she shows that these problems are as ubiquitous as the natural beauty of the island. Make no mistake, this book is not intended to help tourism in Trinidad, but neither is it intended to scare people away. I think Adam’s intent was to show how a real family lives, feels and survives in Trinidad.

Every time I’ve visited Trinidad, I’ve always wondered what it would be like to actually live there. It’s a far cry from my home in Maryland. In Port of Spain, I noticed barbed wire circling many of the buildings, even the schools, with the backdrop of palm trees and a tropical landscape. The houses range from modern, colorful structures to smaller dwellings with galvanized tin roofs in a typical shanty town. Many of the  modern houses have electric gates to block the houses from intruders, much like the ones described in Adam’s book.

Overall, I think “Golden Child” is a very well written and engaging story. I would recommend it to anyone with a curiosity for West Indian life.