“I couldn’t see myself as a product coordinator forever, coordinating Bibles, shaving razors, Nike sneakers, or whatever, from my desk in New York to various plants across Southeast Asia. Just because you’re adequately good at something doesn’t mean that’s what you should do.”
On the surface of it—introverted young woman absorbed by her career struggles to survive a plague-ridden world—this book’s premise isn’t particularly innovative. Turns out it’s all in the execution. This finely crafted novel fully deserves the flotilla of awards it gathered in 2018.
The story mashes up several of my favorite things: zombie-esque apocalypse; career malaise; parental relationships; and religious zealots. Narrator Candace, a second generation Chinese immigrant, is outwardly calm and efficient as she goes about her unflashy life in New York City. She works a decent publishing job that she knows to be meaningless and mediocre. She lazily falls into a romantic relationship with a nice-enough neighbor. She ruminates at length about her parents and whether she has earned their sacrifices. Her one tepid passion is for photography, which she pursues whole-heartedly only once the city is empty and desolate. Candace’s self-assured passivity, her preference for solitude, and her ability to compartmentalize keep her steady—maybe even happy—while the world burns down around her. She’s the poster child for radical acceptance until she finally faces circumstances that arouse her instinct to fight for a future other than the one handed to her.
Recommended for: gorgeous and insightful prose; a new take on zombies; and a compassionate look at bright but “underachieving” millennials.
Thanks to Rachel for the review that introduced me to this book!
Winner of the 2018 Kirkus Prize, A New York Times Notable Book of 2018, An Indie Next Selection
A Best Book of 2018 at Elle, NPR, Marie Claire, Refinery29, Bustle, Buzzfeed, BookPage, Bookish, Mental Floss, Chicago Review of Books, HuffPost, Electric Literature, Amazon, A.V. Club, Jezebel, Vulture, and more.