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Candace Chen, a millennial drone self-sequestered in a Manhattan office tower, is devoted to routine. With the recent passing of her Chinese immigrant parents, she’s had her fill of uncertainty. She’s content just to carry on: She goes to work, troubleshoots the teen-targeted Gemstone Bible, watches movies in a Greenpoint basement with her boyfriend.

So Candace barely notices when a plague of biblical proportions sweeps New York. Then Shen Fever spreads. Families flee. Companies cease operations. The subways screech to a halt. Her bosses enlist her as part of a dwindling skeleton crew with a big end-date payoff. Soon entirely alone, still unfevered, she photographs the eerie, abandoned city as the anonymous blogger NY Ghost.

Candace won’t be able to make it on her own forever, though. Enter a group of survivors, led by the power-hungry IT tech Bob. They’re traveling to a place called 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, Ling Ma’s Severance is a moving family story, a quirky coming-of-adulthood tale, and a hilarious, deadpan satire. Most important, it’s a heartfelt tribute to the connections that drive us to do more than survive.


Ling Ma was born in Sanming, China and grew up in Utah, Nebraska, and Kansas. Her debut novel Severance received the Kirkus Prize, the NYPL Young Lions Fiction Award, and was named a NY Times Notable Book. A 2020 Whiting recipient, she lives in Chicago, where she enjoys visiting her favorite indie bookstores. These include Unabridged Books, The Dial, Pilsen Community, City Lit, and the Seminary Co-op, among others.


  • Item Weight: 9 ounces
  • ISBN-10: 1250214998
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • ISBN-13: 9781250214997
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprint Edition (May 7, 2019)
  • Product Dimensions: 5.51 x 0.81 x 8.33 inches
  • Language: English
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