Book of the Week: ‘Severance’


Ling Ma

2018, 304 pages

Adult fiction

Severance, the debut novel of Chinese-born American Ling Ma, is hard to classify. Its premise is pretty straightforward. Shen Fever rapidly takes over the world, turning almost everyone in its path into what can best be described as a zombie. The infected mindlessly participate in the same action over and over again until death takes them. Millennial workaholic Candace Chen seems to completely ignore the epidemic. Soon her adopted home of New York City is all but deserted. When Candace does eventually leave, she joins the only noninfected people she can find, a clan of what is slowly revealed to be a cult.

But the plot doesn’t tell the whole story. The book moves back and forth between Candace’s pre- and post-apocalyptic life. It touches on her immigrant upbringing, her indifference over her career and a disintegrating romantic relationship.

An anti-capitalist theme runs throughout. Is Candace’s life really that different than before Shen Fever? Still, it doesn’t overtake the story. The pace of the book is slow and understated. Despite this, I found it hard to put down. Highly recommended but not for everyone.

Elizabeth Gottheimer

Concord Public Library

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Author: Insider Staff

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