Genre: Adult Science Fiction/Horror
Year Release: 2020
Source: Chirp Audiobooks
Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: medical experimentation, vomiting, self-harm
Lena’s grandmother dies and her mother needs medical treatment. She drops out of college to care for her mother, but then a too-good-to-be-true offer comes her way in the form of participating in a research study. It involves being part of some testing at a facility that hides behind a venture called Lakewood Shipping Company. Horrors come to light as they make Lena and the other participants take untested medications.
Disturbing in a way that is all too real, I could not pull myself away from this read.
So, I was one of the 10 people who enjoyed A Cure for Wellness (2016). The premise was that a powerful executive goes to a rehabilitation center with a terrible secret that manifests as having positive outcomes. This novel has a similar set-up, but goes so much further into the exploration of desperation, physical commodification, and the cost of progress. If you’re looking for The Handmaid’s Tale, this isn’t it.
Giddings covers so much ground in such a relatively short work. What stood out to me most was how Lena repeatedly soothes herself and justifying the means to the end. This position whose awfulness unravels as the book goes on had me desperately wanting for Lena to get out. The fact that her family stays as a main character in an otherwise isolating environment really worked. That “eye on the prize” aspect was particularly heartbreaking, especially in the context of the government taking advantage of those who need help the most, especially marginalized populations. It’s happened before in history, so it offers ever-upsetting layers of horror.
This isn’t entirely a spoiler, but the ending is hopeful, but wow, at what cost.