Severance by Ling Ma | Book Review

When was the last time you read a book and it just stuck with you for days afterward?

I finished Severance Wednesday night and despite my attempts to get into my next book, I keep going back to Severance.

This was a surprise. When I picked it as my Book of the Month, I only knew the briefest of synopses and wasn’t expecting much out of it. And now, three days later and I hadn’t posted my review because I was still ruminating. . 
Severance is a strange little book that manages to be several books at once successfully. It’s an anti capitalist satire. It’s a Chinese-American immigrant story. And it’s an apocalyptic zombie story.

You follow Candace Chen in a split timeline, in the past as she rides out the civilization-ending pandemic in her corporate office building in NYC and in the present as she travels with a small band of fellow survivors.

Author Ling Ma’s examination of capitalistic culture is biting, but what really hooked me was how she explored modern “stuck in a rut” lives and the pitfalls in nostalgia. She’s not the first to make the zombie/office worker comparison but her iteration was so bleak and discomforting (especially for someone like me who experiences deja vu almost daily and finds “comfort” in predictability). And I found Candace to be one of the most relatable unlikable characters I’ve read in a long time.

I’ll spare you all many more details than that because I highly recommend going in mostly blind like I did. I’ll definitely be picking up more from Ling Ma in the future and will move this to the “to be reread” stack.

Review of “The Illicit Happiness of Other People” by Manu Joseph

Illicit featured imageThe Illicit Happiness of Other People” by Manu Joseph

OK, first a little bit of plot summary:

The Chacko family is one with a tragic past. Unni Chacko, a very talented cartoonist, is only 17 years old when he falls from the family’s third floor balcony. Reality has it that he didn’t just fall — he jumped.

Flash forward three years to Ousep Chacko, a washed up, old journalist who staggers home every night and yells drunken slurs for the whole block to hear. Depending on your psychological outlook, he may seem like a father who doesn’t care or a father who cares deeply. Nevertheless, when he receives a long-lost comic that Unni had mailed to an unknown recipient the day “he did what he did,” Ousep starts questioning everyone in Unni’s mysterious life in an attempt to answer the riddle of his son’s death.

Continue reading “Review of “The Illicit Happiness of Other People” by Manu Joseph”