“Candace Chen is a first-generation Chinese millennial immigrant who tries to make a life in New York City by succumbing to the role of the office drone who helps create cheap bibles. But when Shen Fever—a plague that causes its victims to perform a rote task until death—hits, only a few survive, including Candace. She soon finds herself in a cult-like band of other survivors heading to the Midwest while also trying to come to terms with her past and the unknowns of her future. With dark humor, sharp intelligence, and compassion, Ling Ma has written a well-constructed, biting satire of capitalism and a moving glimpse into the roles of memory, place, and identity in a life.”Kelsey Westenberg, The Dial Bookshop
“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
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