Title: How High We Go in the Dark
Author: Sequoia Nagamatsu
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Genre: Literary Fiction, Climate Fiction
I don’t think my review will do justice to this book. What can I say about a book that makes you see the world differently, makes you feel more, and more than anything, makes you a better person in a manner that you didn’t imagine? The question asked really is: What happens to humanity when the world is coming to an end? What happens to the nature of humans when the world isn’t what they used to know, and when death moves way ahead of life?
How High We Go in the Dark isn’t a pandemic novel, though it is marketed as one. Yes, there is a virus in the book, discovered 30,000 years later, the one that creates havoc, something that we have experienced in the last two years as well. However, this book is more about hope, love, missed opportunities, family, community, and ultimately healing.
Nagamatsu’s book is epic in the sense of the stories it tells – the threads that are connected, the characters that are only trying to make sense of the world they are in which isn’t theirs anymore, and how we navigate grief and loss. The book starts in Siberia where unearthing a girl releases a virus that destroys human organs. And from there Nagamatsu takes us to the City of Laughter, an amusement park where children infected with the virus can enjoy one last fun-filled day before riding a deathly roller-coaster. There is a scientist whose experiments on a pig take an emotional turn when the pig starts communicating. Funerary services dominate the landscape – enabling ways of grieving and not so.
Grief, and what it does to humans and non-humans as well is at the heart of this book. It is about connections and Nagamatsu does a stunning job of expressing it through his characters – who all want to reach out to one another, sometimes succeeding and sometimes not. I loved how he brought back the beginning of the book right towards the end, which left me stumped and awestruck. The writing is not only powerful but also contemplative and deeply engaging. How High We Go in the Dark is hands down one of the best books I’ve read this month.