📖 Severance by Ling Ma


Hey guys!

Just finished this book last night and wanted to share some excerpts from it. 

Severance is a book about life before and after a pandemic called 'Shen Fever', a viral fungal infection originating in Shenzhen. Uncanny huh? The book was published in 2018, by the way.

We follow the story of Candace Chen, a Chinese immigrant to the USA. I enjoyed the Asian references and perspective! Details like how the character used a bar of brown Neutrogena soap and the mother's nagging about daily moisturising, were endearing to me. There was one scene where she cut out her parents' favourite items from a magazine and sent it to them via burning - what we Chinese do during the seventh month. It makes me realise once again that rituals are really more for the living sometimes - we just want to feel purposeful and connected to our loved ones even when they are not physically around anymore. 

The story is interspersed with chapters of her life before and after 'Shen Fever'. So we have musings of her lifestyle, her Asian family's migration to the US, as well as zombie story scenes where house raids of the 'fevered' are conducted for supplies. It reminded me of The Walking Dead. I thought these elements were well balanced and was a great mix that made the book riveting.

However, just a word of caution: the story ends rather abruptly and I was left unsatisfied. That's the only caveat of this book I guess.

In the story, the love interest, Jonathan, is a chill freelancer who does not believe in the constraints of conventional society. He breaks free of the office world and lives on the fringes of society, reclaiming his time and effort. This theme is discussed several times. Candace struggles with accepting this way of life, because if you want a child, you can't afford to be so freewheeling like Jonathan. These parts of the story resonate with me the most.

"Most of all, I want my time and my efforts to be my own."

A day off because of disasters that can't be helped, causing enough damage but not too much, so that life goes back to normal eventually. A discussion of leisure in today's working world.

"Only in America do you have the luxury to be depressed."

I guess when you refer to Maslow's hierarchy, it's kind of true. When you're worrying about things like food and shelter, you have to keep moving and keep grinding to keep your head above the water. No time to reflect and mope inside when survival becomes an everyday issue.

Overall still an interesting read!