An unnamed disease is sweeping across North America. Marked by silver blisters that appear on the skin, it causes forgetfulness before the body eventually shuts down, resulting in death. The cause is unknown, and conspiracy theories abound as to where it came from.
Joy Jones is one of the few who is immune to the disease. When asked to take part in a trial to observe and test those who are resistant to the disease in an attempt to develop a cure, she agrees, although she has some reservations.
But during her 10 month long stay at the Hospital, she discovers that the intentions of those running the facility may not be quite as straightforward as she was led to believe.
Find Me is told as a first person narrative, and is almost a stream of consciousness from Joy as she shares her thoughts and observations as well as her tricks for remembering (important, given the effect of the disease) which is a series of lists and facts about anything and everything. The sentences are short and snappy, and I found the telling to be quite cold and dispassionate; Joy’s tone is very matter-of-fact. Some readers may find this a little off-putting, although I think that it worked well in the novel. The first person narrative helps to create suspense, as the reader knows only as much as Joy knows, or as much she chooses to share with the reader, and Joy’s tone comes across as someone who is resigned to their fate.
For me, this was a book of two halves. I found the first section, which is set in the ominously nameless yet capitalised “Hospital”, tense, and I had numerous questions about what was going on. Dr Bek, the head doctor, was mysterious and vague, and daily announcements from a never seen Pathologist suggested a Big Brother kind of set up. The second half of the novel was quite different, however, and I found it to be a little lacking in the atmosphere that made the first section so enjoyable.
Find Me has all the hallmarks of an apocalyptic novel, yet doesn’t seem to be doing anything original; everything in here has been done before and, if I’m honest, has been done better. I think that van den Berg maybe tried to bring too many facets together, and the result was a little incohesive.
If you’re a reader who likes everything to be tied up neatly by the end of a story, this may not be for you. The ending is ambiguous, and Joy never finds out any more about the nature of the disease. I quite liked the lack of clarity here, and I’m still pondering over the ending, and whether it meant one thing or another.
Laura van den Berg has previously had two collections of short stories published, and whilst Find Me, her first novel, didn’t quite do it for me, I think that it will be interesting to see what she writes next.