The naming of the narrator of Laura van den Berg’s ‘Find Me‘ must have been ironic. She is called Joy. The most joyless protagonist ever to flicker across the screen of my Kindle. Living alone, working in a minimart and stealing cough medicine to blur the edges of her existence, I don’t think Joy Jones smiles or laughs more than three times throughout the whole of the book.
In this dystopian novel, a sickness has swept across America, causing its victims to suffer memory loss before death claims them. In some ways, Joy is fortunate as she is immune to the sickness and Dr Bek hopes that she and others like her will lead to a cure. But Joy’s live is pervaded by an overwhelming loneliness; abandoned at birth and placed with foster parents, she has no permanent relationships in her life. The whole narrative aches with her isolation, even when she has people around her. ‘Find Me’ is in two parts. In the first, Joy is in The Hospital where she is under contract to remain. In the second, she has escaped and sets out to track down her birth mother, whom she has recognised from a TV programme.
Although van den Berg’s work gets off to a promising start, the intrigue of Part 1 is totally obviated by the mind-numbing tedium of Part 2. I am sure the author had some profound secrets of the human soul to disclose, but I couldn’t find them amongst the interminable bus journeys, unlikeable characters and seemingly unconnected happenings and recollections. At least I figured out how the book derived its title; readers get totally bogged down by its meandering pathways and become so confused and disorientated that after a while a search party has to be despatched to to retrieve them. Seriously, I can think of far more enjoyable ways of losing myself, most of which would involve alcohol.
Thanks to NetGalley for the copy of this book.