Usually, when I’m on vacation, I can’t wait to get lost in a sexy romance. But recently, I stumbled upon Lakewood by Megan Giddings, and–instead of getting caught up in a love story with lots of meet-cutes, angst, misunderstanding, sex, and more sex–I ended up in one of the most twisted thrillers I’ve ever read.
I was confused, sometimes I was scared. I wanted to talk about it with my husband who only reads sci-fi. And I loved it.
You might have heard about Lakewood. It’s Megan Giddings’s debut novel and it’s a frightening deep-dive into class and race and what happens when a young Black woman left in financial straits by the death of her grandmother and the astronomical cost of treating her mother’s mysterious medical condition, takes a job that sounds too good to be true and ends up in the byzantine and terrifying world of medical experimentation.
Intrigued? Good — because you really, really need to check out this book. But be forewarned — this is not a quick and easy read. It’s a suspenseful literary horror-thriller and it will tie your brain in knots. Here are five reasons why you should read this book…
Once Lena arrives at the first interview to find out if she’s right for Lakewood, you already get a sense of foreboding.
Giddings does a fantastic job of leaving you as a reader a little off-kilter. Maybe it’s the not knowing all the time what’s real and what’s a hallucination. The more Lena begins to question what’s happening to her.
What would you be willing to do to secure your future financially?
That’s what Lena has to ask herself, especially when she and her mother are on the verge of losing their home and Lena’s unable to pay her college tuition.
For Lena, the only choice she seems to have is dropping out of school and taking either a minimum wage job that seems soul-destroying…or letting the people at Lakewood use her as a test bunny but being able to pay her bills and provide her mother with better healthcare coverage than they’ve ever had.
With us being in the middle of a pandemic and following the progress of developing and testing COVID vaccines, Lakewood putting us in a nightmarish world of medical testing is probably the last thing we should probably be reading…and yet, it’s exactly what we should be reading because it’s so damn relevant.
Lakewood reminds us that poverty is not picturesque or quaint. It also reminds us how limited and vulnerable so many of us are and how this vulnerability can make us desperate.
And since many of us have grown up hearing about the Tuskegee experiment, the crack epidemic of the 80s and 90s (and the urban legends and conspiracy theories around it), Lakewood makes us question what is actually happening.
Did you grow up hearing some adults around you whisper about illegal drug testing done by well-known hospitals in cahoots with big pharma?
Or did your older relatives always warn you about how you could never completely trust the government because of the Tuskegee experiment, the crack epidemic of the 80s and 90s (and the urban legends and conspiracy theories around it), Lakewood makes us question what is actually happening and who we are willing to trust, especially when we have to take care of people we love.
Once you begin reading Lakewood, you’ll probably find yourself hooked by Lena’s story. For me, it meant several late-night reading sessions that went way past my bedtime.
Luckily, I was on vacation so I didn’t have to worry about getting up at six in the morning to get myself together before a full day of brainstorming sessions in Zoom and Teams.
But, I warn you, Lakewood is NOT a lighthearted and entertaining story — it will leave you feeling drained, maybe even a little confused.
You’ll want to talk about — and you should, preferably over a bottle of wine with some friends who’ve also read it and need to dissect it.
Definitely a 5-star read!
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