Lakewood: A Novel (Hardcover)

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Lakewood: A Novel (Hardcover)


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Lena Johnson is a young college student when her grandmother, her family’s rock, passes away leaving behind a weight of debt and responsibility that Lena isn’t fully ready to take on. Her mother has been sick since Lena was a child and between medical bills from her mother, who is unable to work, and her grandmother’s brief and fatal battle with cancer, Lena is desperate for work. When Lena is invited to participate in a confidential research study in a small Michigan town she jumps at the opportunity which will afford her more cash than any of the odd jobs she has considered in her area, setting her on a path that will change everything.
This research project is vaguely described as a memory study, and for the initial two-week period she signs away permissions to every private detail of her life. Her email accounts, her social media accounts, her phone, her medical history, and is tested on a myriad of strange things. She is told to sit in a closet-sized room and draw what someone in a neighboring room is thinking about. She is asked unending questions about what she thinks about anger, race, politics, morality. She is given strange medication and asked to describe her physical and mental state. She is rarely given an answer to any questions she asks and tells herself it is all worth it for the payout.
After her two-week job has ended she is invited to be a permanent test subject for this government research study where she will be given an incomprehensible amount of money, free room and board, total healthcare coverage for her and her family (her mother would finally be able to afford real healthcare and possible answers to her strange condition) and a comprehensive settlement for any life-altering injuries she may incur. Fifty Thousand Dollars for the loss of a limb, Ten Thousand Dollars for the loss of her vision, One Hundred Thousand dollars for the loss of her life and the question becomes one for us all, what would you be willing to risk or sacrifice for your family? For your security? With each test it becomes harder and harder for Lena to convince herself this is all worth it. She repeats, like a mantra, if I can just do this for a year, mom will never have to worry about anything. If I can make it eight more months, I can pay off school. Is it worth it?
Giddings' writing is thought provoking and surreal as she forces you to examine important conversations on race and morality, paired with bizarre and sometimes brutal scenes from Lena’s experiences working for The Lakewood Project. I have a friend who likes to ask “would you rather” questions. Would you rather have a clown follow you at a distance every day of your life OR have that same clown just appear periodically, maybe once a decade,  in your bedroom when you are trying to go to sleep? This book reminds me of him and his questions. Would you rather dress up like a tortilla chip and watch your family slip into poverty OR take a strange pill that could kill you, but would protect your family forever? Lakewood is truly so, so good. I can’t wait to read whatever Megan Giddings writes next.

— From Chelsea

NPR Book of the Year 2020

Electric Literature: One of 55 Books by Women and Nonbinary Writers of Color to Read in 2020 |  Lit Hub & The Millions: Most Anticipated Books of 2020 | Ms. Magazine: Anticipated 2020 Feminist Books | Refinery29: Books by Black Women We are Looking Forward To Reading | One of The Millions’ Most Anticipated Reads of 2020 | Amazon Book of the Month Pick | Audible Editor’s Pick | Essence’s Pick| Glamour’s Must Read | Ms. Magazine’s Anticipated Read of 2020 

A startling debut about class and race, Lakewood evokes a terrifying world of medical experimentation—part The Handmaid’s Tale, part The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

When Lena Johnson’s beloved grandmother dies, and the full extent of the family debt is revealed, the black millennial drops out of college to support her family and takes a job in the mysterious and remote town of Lakewood, Michigan.

On paper, her new job is too good to be true. High paying. No out of pocket medical expenses. A free place to live. All Lena has to do is participate in a secret program—and lie to her friends and family about the research being done in Lakewood. An eye drop that makes brown eyes blue, a medication that could be a cure for dementia, golden pills promised to make all bad thoughts go away.

The discoveries made in Lakewood, Lena is told, will change the world—but the consequences for the subjects involved could be devastating. As the truths of the program reveal themselves, Lena learns how much she’s willing to sacrifice for the sake of her family.

Provocative and thrilling, Lakewood is a breathtaking novel that takes an unflinching look at the moral dilemmas many working-class families face, and the horror that has been forced on black bodies in the name of science.

Megan Giddings is an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota. Her first novel, Lakewood, was one of New York Magazine's top ten books of 2020, an NPR Best Book of 2020, a Michigan Notable book for 2021, a finalist for two NAACP Image Awards, and was a finalist for an L.A. Times Book Prize in the Ray Bradbury Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Speculative category. Megan's writing has received funding and support from the Barbara Deming Foundation and Hedgebrook. She lives in the Midwest.

Product Details ISBN: 9780062913197
ISBN-10: 0062913190
Publisher: Amistad
Publication Date: March 24th, 2020
Pages: 288
Language: English

“Chilling...Giddings is a writer with a vivid imagination and a fresh eye both of the body and of society. This eerie debut provides a deep character study spiked with a dose of horror.” — Publishers Weekly

“Giddings writes with eloquence, walking readers through the complicated world of Lakewood. They'll be eager to turn each page and read what happens next.” — Booklist

"Lakewood is a thought-provoking debut and Megan Giddings is a young writer to watch." — Kirkus Reviews

“Megan Giddings’ debut novel Lakewood is reminiscent of Jordan Peele’s terrifying film Get Out.” — Essence

“Both profoundly poetic and utterly compelling, Lakewood presents an intimate portrait of the physical and psychological trauma caused by the use of black people as test subjects for medical experiments in the United States and powerfully connects it to the broader legacy of environmental racism.” — Ladee Hubbard, author of The Talented Ribkins

“Megan Giddings’ Lakewood is a gripping thriller of ideas in the tradition of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, depicting a terrifying world of public complicity and government-sponsored malpractice. Giddings asks: What happens when our want to be useful is weaponized against us, when the only way we see to help others is to invite harm upon ourselves? This is the rare debut that feels utterly of the now, unearthing our shared past even as it charges the reader to imagine and enact a better future, fast as they can.” — Matt Bell, author of Scrapper 

"Like Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale or Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives, Lakewood compels even as it unsettles. Megan Giddings writes with a scalpel and I’d follow her characters anywhere."  — Kelly Link, author of Get in Trouble

“An impressive debut. Megan Giddings has produced a novel of great emotional intensity. Her brilliant storytelling skills are on full display in this story which unfolds with subtle prose that deftly explores powerful themes of family, loss, responsibility, and friendship. Lena Johnson is a masterfully rendered protagonist, reminiscent of the characters of Toni Morrison, Gayl Jones and Jesmyn Ward, while appearing utterly new and fresh.” — Jeffrey Colvin, author of Africaville