In a dystopian America, an invulnerable girl searches for the mother who abandoned her
Joy, an orphan quarantined at a strange hospital in Kansas, is part of a study of a disease which causes memory loss and brain deterioration (kind of like a sped up dementia). Her days are boring and regimented. Head Physician Dr. Bek and nurses, in biohazard suits, appear periodically to conduct tests. Joy is assigned to a workgroup, eats bland cafeteria and has sex with her roommate Louis. There is a half hearted patient strike. At all times, the patients are being observed. Joy is haunted by a woman on tv, an oceanographer, a woman Joy believes is her birth mother. During a power outage, she escapes for a road trip across desolate America, at a certain point to be rejoined on the bus by her childhood foster brother, Marcus, a man who constantly wears a mask.
The writing was beautiful, with an appealing tone. The first person narration felt simple and open. It didn’t feel like a science fiction dystopian story, which technically it probably is. The first half was enjoyable to read; the second half also, only there, during the road trip, the plot lost its forward momentum, devolving into a series of well written discrete scenes. Do writers reach for the road trip structure when they can’t figure out what happens next? However, these scenes also contain a number of Joy’s memories. So the first part is about a forced forgetting, and the second part is about unwanted remembering. (Because most of her memories are sad). After her escape, though, I never got a sense of the narrative tension building, and ultimately, I stuck with this book because of the amazing voice.