Bookshots: 'Find Me' by Laura van den Berg
Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review
Who wrote it?
Laura van den Berg, the author of The Isle of Youth and What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us. She has a thing for outsiders and worlds just a wink outside of our own. This is her debut novel.
Plot in a Box :
A mysterious and fatal “epidemic of forgetting” sweeps America, sparing only a small immune fraction of the population. One of the survivors, Joy Jones, sees the end of the world as an opportunity to find the mother who abandoned her as a child.
Invent a new title for this book:
Remember Those Safe Places
Read this if you like:
Stories that anticipate the end of the world but are too afraid to play in-your-face zombie video games like The Last of Us.
Meet the book’s lead :
Joy Jones, a quiet woman who used to spend her days downing cough syrup and working the graveyard shift at Stop & Shop before the apocalyptic epidemic struck. It’s in her nature to keep secrets.
Said lead would be portrayed in a movie by:
Rooney Mara in all of her glorious, enigmatic stillness.
Setting: would you want to live there?
No thank you. I would be one of the first to develop silver sores, forget everything, grow comatose and die.
What was your favorite sentence?
I told myself I was used to impermanence, that attachments would get me exactly nowhere, but then some people stay with you in ways you don’t expect and you try to shake them out, shake them away, but your memory won’t let you.
There are many ways people have imagined the world will end: zombie apocalypse, nuclear warfare, divine judgment, deadly climate change. The catalyst in Laura van den Berg’s Find Me is different—an epidemic that kills by draining people of their memories. It works in harmony with T.S. Eliot's famous line from "The Hollow Men":
This is how the world ends
Not with a bang but with a whimper.
For the immune at an isolated hospital in Kansas—the survivors like Joy Jones—it’s vital to remember. Joy compulsively lists facts, places, experiences, and details about the people who matter most. In an effort to preserve her personal history, she uncovers the parts of her past that evade her, using the hospital TV and Internet sessions to research the mother who abandoned her. She watches videos of her mother—underwater archeologist Beatrice Lurry—aboard the deck of a ship explaining electrical phenomenon. In an epidemic of forgetting, Joy creates new memories.
Find Me is richly detailed and at times darkly humorous. It’s hard not to laugh out loud when Joy searches wearesorryforyourloss.com (which lists victims of the epidemic), or has to chant absurdly positive hospital affirmations: “YOU ARE WELL, YOU HAVE ALWAYS BEEN WELL, YOU WILL ALWAYS BE WELL”. One of the most hilarious and haunting notions in van den Berg’s apocalypse, though, is that even after the world ends, the Internet will survive us.
Laura van den Berg’s debut novel is tender, psychological and mesmerizing. Joy’s voice is a clear and contagious melody that will continue to stay with you long after you put down the book—begging you to hold onto all the things you’ve ever wished to forget.
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