Cover image for Find me : a novel
Find me : a novel
Van den Berg, Laura, author.
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015.
Physical Description:
280 pages ; 22 cm
"Find Me is the story of a young woman reckoning with the ghosts of her past in a post-epidemic America"--
Format :


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Material Type
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Item Holds
FICTION Adult Fiction Central Library
FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf
FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



Long-listed for the 2016 International Dylan Thomas Prize

After two acclaimed story collections, Laura van den Berg brings us Find Me , her highly anticipated debut novel--a gripping, imaginative, darkly funny tale of a young woman struggling to find her place in the world.

Joy has no one. She spends her days working the graveyard shift at a grocery store outside Boston and nursing an addiction to cough syrup, an attempt to suppress her troubled past. But when a sickness that begins with memory loss and ends with death sweeps the country, Joy, for the first time in her life, seems to have an advantage: she is immune. When Joy's immunity gains her admittance to a hospital in rural Kansas, she sees a chance to escape her bleak existence. There she submits to peculiar treatments and follows seemingly arbitrary rules, forming cautious bonds with other patients--including her roommate, whom she turns to in the night for comfort, and twin boys who are digging a secret tunnel.

As winter descends, the hospital's fragile order breaks down and Joy breaks free, embarking on a journey from Kansas to Florida, where she believes she can find her birth mother, the woman who abandoned her as a child. On the road in a devastated America, she encounters mysterious companions, cities turned strange, and one very eerie house. As Joy closes in on Florida, she must confront her own damaged memory and the secrets she has been keeping from herself.

Author Notes

Laura van den Berg was raised in Florida. Her first collection of stories, What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us , was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection and a finalist for the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award. Her second collection of stories, The Isle of Youth (published by FSG Originals in 2013), received the Rosenthal Family Foundation Award for Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Find Me is her first novel. She lives in the Boston area.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Some first novels swoop in out of the blue; others evolve out of a writer's pristinely crafted short stories. Such is the case with O. Henry Award-winner Laura van den Berg, who sparked critical acclaim and reader excitement with her distinctive first book, What the World Will Look like When All the Water Leaves Us (2009), a collection of stories about the mysterious and the monstrous. Her second story collection, The Isle of Youth (2013), appeared on many best of the year lists and won the Rosenthal Family Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts & Letters. Find Me, her transfixing first novel, is in keeping with her short stories thematically, and yet, in its deep soundings, it's a commanding departure. Joy, 19, is locked up in the Hospital along with dozens of other inmates. They're in extreme quarantine, tended to by a staff in full hazmat gear. They were brought to this long-abandoned psychiatric hospital in the vast emptiness of Kansas because they survived direct exposure to the sickness, a highly contagious disease that is rampaging across the country, killing people in the tens of thousands. It's believed that the inmates' blood holds the key to a cure and vaccine. But the protocols for this isolated study are awfully peculiar, their total isolation worrisome. This reads like the beginning of a literary postpandemic or postapocalyptic tale along the lines of Margaret Atwood's Maddaddam trilogy, Edan Lepucki's California (2014), and Chang-rae Lee's On Such a Full Sea (2014), each of which portrays dispossessed young women seeking sanctuary and a way forward in a devastated world. This scenario also brings to mind this season's terrifying and tragic Ebola outbreak. But van den Berg is conducting a more internalized investigation into the complex consequences of abandonment and abuse. She is asking how one faces the tumult and tempests of life without roots or an anchor. Left on the front steps of a hospital as a baby, Joy grows up in group and foster homes, where the inexplicable is the norm. She loses her entire eighth year the slate rubbed blank after the psychologist son of her first foster parents moves back home and does something unspeakable to her. When she is 13, she grows close to a gentle, slightly clairvoyant foster brother, Marcus, who wears Halloween masks to conceal his disfigured face. Eventually, Joy ends up living in a windowless basement apartment, working the graveyard shift at a convenience store and drinking cough syrup for a cheap high. Then the aunt she never knew she had, who is dying of the sickness, gives Joy an old photograph of her mother. No name, no information, only a trace resemblance. Brooding, acutely observant, compassionate, suspicious, wistful, and wryly funny, Joy is an entrancing and sympathetic narrator through which van den Berg can channel her abiding fascination with what is submerged, hidden, lurking, lost. On her twentieth birthday, still in the Hospital, Joy watches a Discovery Channel show, Mysteries of the Sea, featuring a ship detective, or underwater archaeologist based in Key West. Joy is certain that this deep-sea sleuth is the woman in the photograph. Her mother.In the second half of the novel, Joy travels through the decimated countryside, determined to reach Key West. Perilous journeys and quixotic quests are literature's archetypal themes, and American fiction is scored by countless cross-country treks, including a growing number of postapocalypic journeys. On Joy's dark odyssey, she travels through eerie, poisoned landscapes, meets an eccentric couple squatting in a rotting, haunted mansion, and is nearly trampled by a stampede of people in black, their faces painted white. Joy sees that far more is wrong than the sickness. The climate is out of whack, and there are many intimations of further catastrophes. Van den Berg's enveloping novel of a plague and a seeker in an endangered world reveals what it feels like to grow up unwanted and unknown in a civilization hell-bent on self-destruction. It is also a beautifully strange, sad, and provocative inquiry into our failure to love, cherish, and protect. But ultimately, Find Me is a delving story of courage, persistence, and hope.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2014 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Reader Zeller provides a heartfelt reading of Van den Berg's dark yet inspiring apocalyptic novel. As a mysterious illness spreads across the world, 19-year-old protagonist Joy Jones is living as ward of the sinister Hospital, along with other immune children, subject to the strange experiments of Dr. Bek, whose interest in Joy extends beyond medical inquiry. Zeller's modulations in tone and pace conjure up the emotional starkness of Joy's world and her roller coaster of emotions. The lightness in Zeller's voice conveys Joy's youthful optimism when she's thinking of her mother and her happiness when she is with her beau, Louis. But when Joy is sad, lost, and heavy with her reality, Zeller's tone drops and her pace becomes slow and thick like the cough syrup that Joy drinks to numb herself to her world. Zeller is careful not to overwork her narration and at times adopts an evenness in her voice that highlights Joy's desperation and the ambiguity of what is and is not true in her sterile world. A Farrar, Straus and Giroux hardcover. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Starred Review. A deadly virus has swept across America, killing hundreds of thousands. Joy, who was abandoned as an infant and grew up in a series of both foster and group homes, is one of a select few survivors chosen for a specialized course of treatment in a hospital in Kansas. As she follows the mind-numbing routines and regulations of the hospital, Joy begins to suspect that something is being hidden from the patients. By chance she discovers the identity of her birth mother and dreams of finding her, as well as Marcus, a former foster brother. VERDICT Like Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale or Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, van den Berg's debut novel (after two successful story collections) presents a frighteningly plausible near-future dystopia grounded in human elements. Not everything is explained, and things take an increasingly surreal turn in the novel's second half, but Joy's quest, and her need to feel cared for, is heartbreakingly real and compellingly wrought. The book's ambiguous conclusion may lead to rereading as the possibility of multiple interpretations is opened. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 8/4/14.]-Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis (c) Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

The world is starting to fall apart just as Joy begins putting herself back together. Abandoned by her mother at birth and raised in several foster care and group home situations, Joy has struggled to find direction. When a deadly sickness spreads across the country, first stripping people of their memories and then propelling them from dementia to death, Joy finds out she is immune to this disease and is admitted to a hospital that is looking for a cure. She uses this time to reflect on her life thus far and make a plan to track down her birth mother. The first-person narration allows readers to follow the story through Joy's changing perspective, which creates a mood that subtly moves from ambivalence to determination. Teens will be compelled to discover more about the mystery of the illness, and themes of survival and self-discovery will resonate with them. This debut novel's interesting exploration of how people behave during times of crisis mixed with the dynamics of hospital living is a combination of Susanna Kaysen's Girl, Interrupted (Turtle Bay Bks., 1993) and Josh Malerman's Bird Box (Ecco, 2014). VERDICT Give this to introspective teens who enjoy postapocalyptic stories and lyrical language.-Carrie Shaurette, Dwight-Englewood School, Englewood, NJ © Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.