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Severance
Cover of Severance
Severance
A Novel
by Ling Ma
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"Narrator Nancy Wu delivers an outstanding performance of this cheeky satirical novel...Listeners will be entertained by the world building; cast of amusing, eccentric characters; and bizarre charm of the aloof heroine." — AudioFile Magazine, Earphones Award Winner

Maybe it's the end of the world, but not for Candace Chen, a millennial, first-generation American and office drone meandering her way into adulthood in Ling Ma's offbeat, wryly funny, apocalyptic satire, Severance.

Candace Chen, a millennial drone self-sequestered in a Manhattan office tower, is devoted to routine. With the recent passing of her Chinese immigrant parents, she's had her fill of uncertainty. She's content just to carry on: She goes to work, troubleshoots the teen-targeted Gemstone Bible, watches movies in a Greenpoint basement with her boyfriend.

So Candace barely notices when a plague of biblical proportions sweeps New York. Then Shen Fever spreads. Families flee. Companies cease operations. The subways screech to a halt. Her bosses enlist her as part of a dwindling skeleton crew with a big end-date payoff. Soon entirely alone, still unfevered, she photographs the eerie, abandoned city as the anonymous blogger NY Ghost.

Candace won't be able to make it on her own forever, though. Enter a group of survivors, led by the power-hungry IT tech Bob. They're traveling to a place called the Facility, where, Bob promises, they will have everything they need to start society anew. But Candace is carrying a secret she knows Bob will exploit. Should she escape from her rescuers?

A send-up and takedown of the rituals, routines, and missed opportunities of contemporary life, Ling Ma's Severance is a moving family story, a quirky coming-of-adulthood tale, and a hilarious, deadpan satire. Most important, it's a heartfelt tribute to the connections that drive us to do more than survive.

"Narrator Nancy Wu delivers an outstanding performance of this cheeky satirical novel...Listeners will be entertained by the world building; cast of amusing, eccentric characters; and bizarre charm of the aloof heroine." — AudioFile Magazine, Earphones Award Winner

Maybe it's the end of the world, but not for Candace Chen, a millennial, first-generation American and office drone meandering her way into adulthood in Ling Ma's offbeat, wryly funny, apocalyptic satire, Severance.

Candace Chen, a millennial drone self-sequestered in a Manhattan office tower, is devoted to routine. With the recent passing of her Chinese immigrant parents, she's had her fill of uncertainty. She's content just to carry on: She goes to work, troubleshoots the teen-targeted Gemstone Bible, watches movies in a Greenpoint basement with her boyfriend.

So Candace barely notices when a plague of biblical proportions sweeps New York. Then Shen Fever spreads. Families flee. Companies cease operations. The subways screech to a halt. Her bosses enlist her as part of a dwindling skeleton crew with a big end-date payoff. Soon entirely alone, still unfevered, she photographs the eerie, abandoned city as the anonymous blogger NY Ghost.

Candace won't be able to make it on her own forever, though. Enter a group of survivors, led by the power-hungry IT tech Bob. They're traveling to a place called the Facility, where, Bob promises, they will have everything they need to start society anew. But Candace is carrying a secret she knows Bob will exploit. Should she escape from her rescuers?

A send-up and takedown of the rituals, routines, and missed opportunities of contemporary life, Ling Ma's Severance is a moving family story, a quirky coming-of-adulthood tale, and a hilarious, deadpan satire. Most important, it's a heartfelt tribute to the connections that drive us to do more than survive.

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About the Author-
  • Ling Ma received her MFA from Cornell University. Prior to graduate school she worked as a journalist and editor. Her writing has appeared in Granta, Vice, Playboy, Chicago Reader, Ninth Letter and elsewhere. A chapter of Severance received the 2015 Graywolf SLS Prize. She lives in Chicago.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    June 4, 2018
    In this shrewd postapocalyptic debut, Ma imagines the end times in the world of late capitalism, marked by comforting, debilitating effects of nostalgia on its characters. The world has succumbed to Shen Fever, a “disease of remembering” that renders its victims zombie-like, doomed to “ old routines and gestures they must have inhabited for years.” The affected aren’t dangerous, just disturbingly similar to the living in their slavish devotion to habit. The narrator, Candace Chen, works at a specialty Manhattan book publisher, overseeing the printing of specialty Bibles, “the purest form of product packaging, the same content repackaged a million times over.” Most of the production takes place in China, the source of the fever and Candace’s birthplace. She narrates the swift spread of the fungal infection, which begins to ravage the city as she struggles, like many young New Yorkers, with whether she should pursue her artistic passion (photography) or commit to her corporate job. The novel alternates between Candace’s vivid descriptions of increasingly plague-ridden, deserted New York and her eventual pilgrimage to an Illinois shopping mall with a band of survivors, whose leader is a menacing former IT specialist. There are some suspense elements, but the novel’s strength lies in Ma’s accomplished handling of the walking dead conceit to reflect on what constitutes the good life. This is a clever and dextrous debut.

  • AudioFile Magazine Narrator Nancy Wu delivers an outstanding performance of this cheeky satirical novel, which has unusual but thoroughly entertaining premise. Candace reminisces about the ordinary life she had as an office worker until a plague swept New York City. As the population dwindled, she was hired to photograph the abandoned city for a blog--until worsening conditions put a stop to that. In the present day, she is taken in by a group of survivors but soon finds that her rescuers aren't what they seem, and she must plan an escape. Wu's narration perfectly fits the story and Candace's sarcastic personality. Listeners will be entertained by the world building; cast of amusing, eccentric characters; and bizarre charm of the aloof heroine. G.M. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award � AudioFile 2018, Portland, Maine
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    All copies of this title, including those transferred to portable devices and other media, must be deleted/destroyed at the end of the lending period.

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