Verdict: Bleak, hopeless, not for me.
Published by Pan Macmillan, August 6th 2020
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars
In this provocative, bitingly funny debut collection, people attempt to use technology to escape their uncontrollable feelings of grief or rage or despair, only to reveal their most flawed and human selves
An architect draws questionable inspiration from her daughter’s birth defect. A content moderator for “the world’s biggest search engine,” who spends her days culling videos of beheadings and suicides, turns from stalking her rapist online to following him in real life. At a camp for recovering internet trolls, a sensitive misfit goes missing. A wounded mother raises the second incarnation of her child.
In You Will Never Be Forgotten, Mary South explores how technology can both collapse our relationships from within and provide opportunities for genuine connection. Formally inventive, darkly absurdist, savagely critical of the increasingly fraught cultural climates we inhabit, these ten stories also find hope in fleeting interactions and moments of tenderness. They reveal our grotesque selfishness and our intense need for love and acceptance, and the psychic pain that either shuts us off or allows us to discover our deepest reaches of empathy. This incendiary debut marks the arrival of a perceptive, idiosyncratic, instantly recognizable voice in fiction – one that could only belong to Mary South.
This collection was very much not for me – and I had been close to just putting it down, when the third story (Frequently Asked Questions About Your Craniotomy) was just brilliant and I spent the rest of my reading time chasing that high (which never came). South takes already uncomfortable premises and somehow makes them worse – and I do not like fiction that makes me feel like I need to take a shower. I admit that this is very much a me-thing and looking at other reviews made that very clear – there is a lot to love here, if you don’t mind sitting with discomfort.
I left the collection wondering if South does like the internet, at all, or even people, for that matter. Most of her premises lean into the possibility of technology making everything worse, while most her protagonists are genuinely awful people, or at least people at the whim of other horrible people. Her men are self-involved and rarely able to look outside their own problems, her women are often victim of either their own bodies or patriarchy. I did not enjoy my time with this book as it was way too bleak and hopeless for me.
Content warnings: rape, miscarriage, SIDS, trolling, depiction of graphic violence, killing of a cat, alcohol and drug abuse, fat shaming, death of loved ones, stalking, cheating
I received an ARC of this book courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.