by Ling Ma
15 NOV 2018

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Pub Date: 15 November 2018
Extent: 304pp
Format: Paperback

Candace Chen, a millennial drone self-sequestered in a Manhattan office tower, is devoted to routine: her work, watching movies with her boyfriend, avoiding thoughts of her recently deceased Chinese immigrant parents. So she barely notices when a plague of biblical proportions sweeps the world.

Candace joins a small group of survivors, led by the power-hungry Bob, on their way to 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, Severance is a moving family story, a deadpan satire and a heartfelt tribute to the connections that drive us to do more than survive.


‘Ma’s writing about the jargon of globalised capitalism has a mix of humour and pathos that reminded me a little of Infinite Jest and a little of George Saunders; it produced a sense of estrangement from my cosmetics, my clothes, and my iPhone. I finished it feeling sad and sensitive to the garbage all around us that comes at such a high cost to planetary and human welfare.’ New Yorker, What We’re Reading This Summer

‘Ling Ma’s apocalypse glistens with terror, humour, anger and humanity…You will not be able to stop reading this ingeniously constructed and electrifyingly harrowing book.’ Samantha Hunt, author of The Dark Dark

‘A moving meditation on home, belonging and life itself—all rendered in cool yet affecting prose that’s too good not to keep reading.’ Rachel Khong, author of Goodbye, Vitamin

‘This is a biting indictment of late-stage capitalism and a chilling vision of what comes after, but that doesn't mean it's a Marxist screed or a dry Hobbesian thought experiment...Ma also offers lovely meditations on memory and the immigrant experience. Smart, funny, humane, and superbly well-written.’ Kirkus Reviews, starred review

‘Ma’s language does so much in this book, and its precision, its purposeful specificity, implicates an entire generation. But what is most remarkable is the gentleness with which Ma describes those working within the capital-S System. What does it mean if a person finds true comfort working as a "cog" in a system they disagree with? Is that comfort any less real?’ Buzzfeed, #1 Summer Read Pick

‘Embracing the [apocalyptic fiction] genre but somehow transcending it, Ma creates a truly engrossing and believable anti-utopian world…[An] extraordinary debut.’ Booklist, American Library Association (starred review)

Read an excerpt on VICE 
Severance is Buzzfeed’s #1 pick for summer reads! 

Chicago Magazine
Kirkus Reviews (starred review) ‘46 Great Books to Read This Summer’ 
Psychology Today