“A disaffected young woman just scraping by in the big city. A rag-tag group of survivors on a journey through a post-apocalyptic landscape. These are familiar tropes in contemporary fiction (albeit not usually in the same novel). But with Ling Ma's steely-eyed, wry treatment, they grow into something far more complex. In an alternate 2011, Shen Fever, a global pandemic, causes "a fatal loss of consciousness" in those infected. "The Fevered" forget to eat or drink or sleep, but instead get caught in a seeming zombie-like loop of muscle memory: a housewife sets the table for dinner over and over again; a taxi driver drives around the city until he runs out of gas; a young woman tries on all of the clothes in her closet in an endless loop. This post-apocalyptic world is woven with flashbacks of pandemic-survivor Candace Chen's pre-apocalypse life in New York, where a job she doesn't even like becomes the anchor of her identity such that she will seemingly do anything in order to continue to do it, even after she's the last survivor at her company. The question that lingers: is the rote repetition of our lives the very essence of who we are? And how far will we go to preserve that facade of living? Severance is a beautifully spare and wryly funny novel, by a huge new talent. ”Rachel, The Book Table
"Narrator Nancy Wu delivers an outstanding performance of this cheeky satirical novel...Listeners will be entertained by the world building; cast of amusing, eccentric characters; and bizarre charm of the aloof heroine." — AudioFile Magazine, Earphones Award Winner
Maybe it’s the end of the world, but not for Candace Chen, a millennial, first-generation American and office drone meandering her way into adulthood in Ling Ma’s offbeat, wryly funny, apocalyptic satire, Severance.
Candace Chen, a millennial drone self-sequestered in a Manhattan office tower, is devoted to routine. With the recent passing of her Chinese immigrant parents, she’s had her fill of uncertainty. She’s content just to carry on: She goes to work, troubleshoots the teen-targeted Gemstone Bible, watches movies in a Greenpoint basement with her boyfriend.
So Candace barely notices when a plague of biblical proportions sweeps New York. Then Shen Fever spreads. Families flee. Companies cease operations. The subways screech to a halt. Her bosses enlist her as part of a dwindling skeleton crew with a big end-date payoff. Soon entirely alone, still unfevered, she photographs the eerie, abandoned city as the anonymous blogger NY Ghost.
Candace won’t be able to make it on her own forever, though. Enter a group of survivors, led by the power-hungry IT tech Bob. They’re traveling to a place called the Facility, where, Bob promises, they will have everything they need to start society anew. But Candace is carrying a secret she knows Bob will exploit. Should she escape from her rescuers?
A send-up and takedown of the rituals, routines, and missed opportunities of contemporary life, Ling Ma’s Severance is a moving family story, a quirky coming-of-adulthood tale, and a hilarious, deadpan satire. Most important, it’s a heartfelt tribute to the connections that drive us to do more than survive.
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