We’re just finishing up our first month in COVID-19 quarantine, which means it’s finally time for me to start tackling the seemingly never ending stack of books I’ve bought but haven’t read. I probably won’t get to a huge chunk of them for months, but I’ve been slowly chugging along trying to finish as many as I can while I have the time to do so. I’ve been making my way down the list, and recently I read one that seemed to come at just the right time: “Severance” by Ling Ma.
“Severance” follows the life of Candace Chen, a disillusioned millennial New York transplant going through the motions of her everyday life– going back and forth to her publishing job, spending time with her boyfriend and agonizing over the state of the world. Her only escape is her photography blog, NY Ghost, where she posts candid shots of the “real” New York on her walks through the city. However, just as she begins to accept the monotony of her life, the Shen Fever hits the United States, infecting millions of people within months and destroying life as she knows it. Soon, she finds New York deserted as people succumb to the fever and her only solace is posting on her blog, showing New York in its true form as the city begins to fall apart due to the fever.
As Candace tells her story, parts of her life, both pre and post-Shen Fever are revealed, painting a vivid picture of a woman whose every action and idiosyncrasy is deeply rooted in her past. While it centers around Candace, the novel portrays a chilling reality of what a massive pandemic could look like without taking proper action.
Yes, the book seems pretty bleak in the age of the coronavirus, but I became absorbed in the storyline anyway. I found it to be extremely pertinent to our current reality and found some solace in the fact that someone else feels a similar melancholy about a global pandemic that many of us are experiencing. Ultimately, despite the seemingly disturbing and stark reality the novel depicts, Ling Ma portrays an image of hope for our future despite the current state of the world. I tore through the book in just two days and ended up finding comfort in the storyline. “Severance” may seem like too depressing of a read for the current situation we’re all in, but we can find comfort in Candace’s trials that are much like what we’re going through with the coronavirus, and we can hope for a better future for ourselves no matter how frustrating quarantine may be.