Severance (Ling Ma)

Though I’ve only just now started Lawrence Wright’s The End of October, it’s going to be tough to beat this novel for best modern plague fiction. (It’s a category now, folks!) Ma’s prescience is shocking, and her realistic depiction of a vacant New York is absolutely haunting. It is her assessment of the cause of our destruction (yes, there is a contagious fever) – capitalism – that lifts this novel from the ranks of good and timely – to a classic. Much like Colson Whitehead’s excellent Zone One, Ma suggests here that our consumerism is consuming us – that we are “getting and spending” and therefore responsible for our own self-destruction. As in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, there is a journey element to this story. And when you find out where the group arrives. . .

Charles Ellenbogen is the author of the teaching memoir, THIS ISN’T THE MOVIES: 25 YEARS IN THE CLASSROOM, and teaches high school English in Cleveland, Ohio. He lives in Shaker Heights, Ohio with Kirsten, his wife, Zoe, their daughter, Ezra, their son, Lincoln, their dog, and Chocolate Scales, their snake.

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