It’s not often that a novel can successfully tackle a bunch of serious societal issues in one book. But Megan Giddings’ novel, “Lakewood” does just that. I’ve seen it touted as a take on the movie “Get Out,” which is pretty accurate considering the story touches on themes of racism, class warfare, and some serious mind control at play against young African Americans. Throw in a sobering look at our crumbling healthcare system and a drive to protect family, and you have a pageturner with some real substance.
This is definitely one of those stories that I think could be ruined by knowing too much of the plot ahead of time. But I’ll just say it centers around millennial Lena, an African American woman in her 20s who finds herself in dire financial straits after her loving grandmother passes and her mother continues to have a laundry list of medical issues that plague and disable her. When Lena is invited to do some sort of medical study that she’ll be well-compensated for, she decides to move to a nearby small town of Lakewood to participate and earn enough money to care for her mother. What follows is the best kind of horror story: subtly terrifying and downright creepy.
Although it’s easy to feel frustrated by Lena’s actions (she has very little respect for her own physical and mental health), it’s also easy to understand where she’s coming from. Most people in the US have been faced with insurmountable medical bills (for either themselves or their family members) and the stress and anxiety that can go along with needing appropriate medical care can drive people to do insane things.
Giddings’ writing style also completely won me over – it’s haunting yet there are moments of dry humor that made some of the scarier elements of the novel still feel enticing. I absolutely loved the ending and am impressed by Giddings’ ability to create an honestly horrifying look at the lengths some will go to in order to ‘study’ and control others. This is going in the must-recommend pile for sure!
*Free ARC provided by Netgalley and Amistad Books in exchange for an honest review*