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Find Me: A Novel Hardcover – February 14, 2015

2.8 out of 5 stars 66 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

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

Review

"Radiant prose...From this memorable novel's eerie first paragraph to its enigmatic ending, Laura van den Berg has invented something beautiful indeed." - Elizabeth Hand, The Los Angeles Times

"Pleasingly strange... impressively original... [van den Berg's] dark sensibilities call to mind the great Joy Williams, a master at portraying life on the margins... FIND ME has a funny way of resonating beyond its pages." - Carmela Ciuraru, The New York Times Book Review

"van den Berg depicts a life slowly coming into focus--it's blurry and impressionistic at times, sometimes deliriously scattered. But out of the fog of memory and the haze of drugs emerges a sense of clarity that's deep and moving and real." - Michael Patrick Brady, The Boston Globe

"This powerful debut about memory, loss and stories gets under the skin in a deeply unforgettable way." - Minneapolis Star Tribune

"[FIND ME] powerfully conveys the fact that there are some things in life you don't want to forget. 'Some people stay with you in ways you don't expect, and you try to shake them out, shake them away, but memory won't let you,' says Joy. The same could be said of van den Berg, whose debut novel lingers and aches in the memory."  - Nicole Lee, The Guardian

"Spellbinding...a mesmerizing and emotional experience that invites readers to, like Joy, savor life."  - Kelly Luce, O, The Oprah Magazine

"A thoughtful, touching story about survival--about finding ways to heal and reasons to live." - Kim Hubbard, People Magazine

"A haunting exploration of loneliness." - Steph Opitz, Marie Claire

"Marvelous." - Vanity Fair

"...incredibly precise...'Find Me' is being compared to Margaret Atwood's 'The Handmaid's Tale' and Kazuo Ishiguro's 'Never Let Me Go.' While it stands up to such fine company, I'd argue that van den Berg has a style, humor and grit that is all her own." - Claire Cameron, Salon

"An unforgettable and, against all odds, unique tale...Find Me eases into itself, and the deeper we venture into it, the more glorious the book becomes in its embodiment of doubt and self-scrutiny...van den Berg's debut is a keen examination of trying to live under the weight of that choice, and the weight of all else we can't choose." - Tiffany Gibert, Time Out New York

“Radiant prose...From this memorable novel's eerie first paragraph to its enigmatic ending, Laura van den Berg has invented something beautiful indeed.” ―Elizabeth Hand, Los Angeles Times

“...incredibly precise... Find Me is being compared to Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale and Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. While it stands up to such fine company, I'd argue that van den Berg has a style, humor and grit that is all her own.” ―Claire Cameron, Salon

“A thoughtful, touching story about survival - about finding ways to heal and reasons to live.” ―Kim Hubbard, People Magazine

“Van den Berg depicts a life slowly coming into focus - it's blurry and impressionistic at times, sometimes deliriously scattered. But out of the fog of memory and the haze of drugs emerges a sense of clarity that's deep and moving and real.” ―Michael Patrick Brady, The Boston Globe

“Spellbinding... Find Me is crafted to be consumed in small sips, though with a novel so full of mystery and surprise, the temptation is to gulp. Chapters are broken into short sections that jump between Joy's rocky adolescence and the present, yet feel rich and immersive. The book's second act is pleasurably unpredictable as we encounter oddball characters and bizarre situations... but here we also feel van den Berg digging deeper, delivering a mesmerizing and emotional experience that invites readers to, like Joy, savor life.” ―Kelly Luce, O, The Oprah Magazine

“This elegiac debut novel by a hotly-tipped young American writer takes an ebola-style pandemic as the jumping-off point for a lingering meditation on memory.” ―Nicole Lee, The Guardian

“An unforgettable and, against all odds, unique tale... Find Me eases into itself, and the deeper we venture into it, the more glorious the book becomes in its embodiment of doubt and self-scrutiny... van den Berg's debut is a keen examination of trying to live under the weight of that choice, and the weight of all else we can't choose.” ―Tiffany Gilbert, Time Out New York

“This powerful debut about memory, loss and stories gets under the skin in a deeply unforgettable way.” ―Minneapolis Star Tribune

“A haunting exploration of loneliness.” ―Steph Opitz, Marie Claire

“Marvelous.” ―Elissa Schappell, Vanity Fair

“...the novel almost dares readers to escape into this weighty, dark world, where everything has unraveled and all the rules have changed, and see just what they can make of its rich emptiness.” ―Christine Thomas, The Miami Herald

“A fresh spin on apocalyptic stories, Find Me beautifully evaluates memory loss and the stories we tell ourselves.” ―Maddie Crum, The Huffington Post

“In addition to her clean, beautiful prose voice - a voice that makes you want to follow it anywhere - van den Berg has an urge as a writer that feels unusual in contemporary literary fiction: her stories have plots. Like her short stories, the novel borrows from the addictive properties of genre fiction and mainstream television. Surprising events happen in Find Me - there are inset stories, sinister characters, trouble lurking everywhere - but van den Berg's ability to render all of them with a high degree of psychological realism gives these twists and turns a degree of inevitability. Find Me has a psychological depth and a desolate, noirish gravity. The whole shimmering novel hangs together and propels the reader forward with its unusual brand of dream logic... By the time I closed the book, I knew Find Me's spectral visions of America would haunt me, and I knew I would want to read it again.” ―Anita Felicelli, The Rumpus

“Her first novel is original - experimental, even - but written with remarkable clarity... Van den Berg blends the story of the strange plague with Joy's search for her lost mother into an intoxicating mystery.” ―Jane Ciabattari, BBC

“Gorgeously contemplative... Van den Berg's prose is honest and searching, an inquisitive tonic for a destroyed world. Questions plant themselves between paragraphs, unanswered, and curiosity steams through her book like a freight train of hope. Self-discovery has seldom felt like such an optimistic and essential pursuit as it does in the hands of Joy... impossible to forget.” ―Hilary Leichter, Electric Literature

“...you'll be blown away by this quiet, affecting novel... Van den Berg's prose is sparse and vivid all at once. Some of her lines are so arresting that I wanted to underline them, mark up the margins with stars or exclamation points.” ―Rebecca Kelly, Bustle

“...beautifully written... a multilayered story about all of that, with tangents about the internet and technology and how they, ironically, weaken our connections to others, while diving into ideas of memory that completely transcend sentimentality and nostalgia.” ―Rebekah Kirkman, Baltimore City Paper

“In understated prose, Laura creates Joy's distorted and strange world. As we enter into that fictional world, we see that it reflects, in many ways, the real world where we find ourselves today. And in Joy's loneliness and desire to connect, we recognize ourselves.” ―Kathleen Stone, Los Angeles Review of Books

“Laura van den Berg adds a fresh voice to the burgeoning genre of post-apocalyptic-plague fiction with her new novel Find Me. In this case, the sickness ravaging America isn't just killing people: it's also erasing their memories. Mysteries and metaphors are abundant...Van den Berg's careful, poetic prose will make you think hard about the damage we do to each other and to our world, and how we may be able to go about healing it.” ―Rachel Sander, BuzzFeed Books

“We follow Joy, Van den Berg's protagonist, through this uncanny landscape, and a reader couldn't ask for a better, more compelling guide: she is equal parts frightened and confident, jaded and hopeful, resigned and mutinous. And this is Laura van den Berg's great strength: capturing with envy-inducing precision the fraught and fragile duality of human experience and connection. Her characters-like so many of us, like maybe all of us - often find themselves caught in Chinese finger traps, often of their own making, and it is something special on the page to watch as Laura van den Berg examines the ways in which they pull at the warp and weft.” ―Vincent Scarpa, Tin House Online

“Joy's yearning is, ultimately, infectious... There's a gargantuan amount of tension built up at the end, like the previous pages were turns on a windup doll. It is as if, in the last two pages, Van den Berg lets go of her hold on the key, and the novel winds itself down in a breathless, beautiful scene where Joy, too, lets go. In the very last scene, ambiguous pronouns leave plenty of space for interpretation. Like with a poem, I love them all equally.” ―Kinzy Janssen, The Riveter

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... 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.

” ―Donna Seaman, Booklist

“This is one of my favorite novels of 2015, and we're not even in 2015 yet... Van den Berg's short story collections infused me with sky-high expectations for this debut novel, and I was not disappointed. The language is beautiful, spare, and carefully crafted, and the characters are fully realized and unforgettable. There is tension and redemption and insight and even humor in these pages, and they make for a really incredible read.” ―Rebecca Schinsky, Book Riot

“All in all, these two texts crash through preconceived limitations of gender. They give us women's fiction that runs with the wolves.” ―John Domini, Virginia Quarterly Review

“Recently, I was given an advance copy of Laura van den Berg's novel Find Me, out next year on FSG. It felt like the response to The Handmaid's Tale's call. The characters are very different, the worlds in which the novels are set are different, but the yearning of both characters, the driving grief, feels very much of a piece. Both novels offer precision of language and metaphor and scene even as what is being constructed feels messy, chaotic, sad, hopeless. Find Me's joy is speaking in parallel with The Handmaid's Tale's Offred. Both orphaned and alone in the world, both so completely real, both telling a story that feels important and exciting to read.” ―Lindsay Hunter, The Millions

“...wild excursions into dangerous new environments populated by memorable oddballs, never losing sight of the emotional core of Joy's quest... In Joy, van den Berg has created a voice that never feels false, only lost and dreaming of being found.” ―Publisher’s Weekly

“Complex psychology... Van den Berg's writing is curiously beautiful, and her portrayals can also be disarmingly sensitive.” ―Kirkus

“I ripped through my review copy in a week flat. Expect this unsentimental dystopian tale to be a blockbuster when it hits bookstores.” ―Jessica Bryce Young, Orlando Weekly

“Laura van den Berg's debut novel is tender, psychological and mesmerizing. Joy's voice is a clear and contagious melody that will continue to stay with you long after you put down the book - begging you to hold onto all the things you've ever wished to forget.” ―Freddie Moore, LitReactor

“A future-shock think-piece.” ―Ed Power, Irish Independent

“Awe-inspiring.” ―Nancy Carty Lepri, New York Journal of Books

Find Me is haunting dystopian tale of memory and identity that impresses with its beautiful and precise language.” ―David Gutowski, Largehearted Boy

“...never before have I read a book that felt like it had me by the throat any time I opened it up. It's a particular sensation, a hand around your neck, and it demands a certain kind of attention: there's an intimacy that comes with the force. Find Me demands to be read, but it is right there with you, holding you close.” ―Drew Broussard, Raging Biblioholism

Find Me is written in such a poetic, natural flowing manner that the reader will find they do not want it to end, but they also cannot stop reading; such a difficult conundrum... What's left when she's finished is a beautiful tale about rising above the odds; finding oneself and taking charge of your destiny.” ―Joe Toeben, As The Plot Thins

“...the story unfolds slowly through the protagonist's inaction and quiet, beautiful flashback...Van den Berg knows her way around a sentence, contemplation and subtle philosophy. It's through these lyrical passages that the point of this story comes about. What does it take to change and grow? Does biology dictate who we are? Does the world reflect itself onto us? Is it the horrors that were inflicted upon us?” ―Mike Tager, JMWW

“Simultaneously whimsical and realistic, despairing and full of hope, dreamy and brutal, Find Me is a beautifully told coming-of-age story about how we come to understand ourselves and our past.” ―Edan Lepucki, author of 'California'

Find Me is bone-close, darkly funny in a world that is just plain dark and so beautifully written that you might just cancel your plans to stay home to read. Laura van den Berg is a lightning strike of talent.” ―Ramona Ausubel, author of 'No One is Here Except All of Us' and 'A Guide to Being Born'

“Laura van den Berg's Find Me has it all - it's as concise and rich in language as a collection of poetry, and as full of suspense as a great thriller. This is a version of the apocalypse you haven't seen before - funny, beautifully mystifying and scary, and full of real heart and tenderness. Yes, Laura van den Berg, I will follow you and your characters anywhere!” ―Dan Chaon, author of 'Await Your Reply' and 'Stay Awake'

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (February 17, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374154716
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374154714
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #460,482 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'm not even mad that I wasted $13 and a part of two days. Nothing ... absolutely nothing makes any sense. It's as if the author got incredibly stoned and began scribbling on the walls. The apocalypse? Stupid. Don't let that hook you. The author attempts to reel in a story about this mystery disease killing Americans, but never lands it. Is it truly an apocalypse if the disease only affects Americans? There is no resolution. None. Actually there is nothing to resolve. Just a bunch of ramblings about what the subject remembers. 'I remember the sky was purple and I was craving ice cream. A puppy whined in the distance and a blue whale was on tv.' Okay, that's not an actual quote from the book, but it could've been. Utterly stupid through and through.

The book could also use an editor. There is an entire paragraph describing a man with 'their'. Their hair, their posture. Other nitpicky items throughout that I wouldn't normally mention: however the story is so bad (so, so bad), the errors blazed from the pages.
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I bought this book after reading a review on the Culture section of BBC News. Find Me was listed as one of the best books for 2015 and I was intrigued. Intrigue turned to despair. I struggled to retain any real interest for the main character in the second part of the book and failed to buy into the storyline of her journey after the hospital. Some of the writing is beautiful, but excellent prose is not enough for me if the plot and characters fail to connect.
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Format: Hardcover
Any verb. It doesn't have to be a great verb. It doesn't have to be "zoomed," or "propelled," or even "rankled." Just some action word that would inch the story forward. Just a little bit. Or, I know! Maybe another two or three hundred pages of reminisces titled "I really didn't like it when my mom abandoned me at the hospital when I was an infant."

A former insane asylum, a creepy doctor/guru, patients treated as prisoners, a semi-apocalypse and the Florida Keys. With all this going for it, how could this novel be so boring? Got me, but it is.
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Format: Hardcover
Though I ended up reading all of Find Me, I did not find it a particularly fast or enjoyable read. The story was not difficult to follow, but after the intriguing beginning involving a woman ensnared by a creepy doctor after a terrible outbreak of a memory-erasing epidemic, the book took on a plodding pace that was hard to endure. If a book can be said to be ‘quiet’, this book is nearly comatose. Further maddening, I found myself having to make unwelcome concessions to unreality such as believing anyone could spend most of their waking and sleeping hours wearing a rubber rabbit mask to conceal a minor physical deformity to an eye, or believing anyone would ever pick up such a person if they were hitchhiking along the turnpike. I also had to believe in a strange hospital in the wasteland of Kansas that is run by doctors who encourage the idea that you can think yourself out of contracting a contagious disease.

There are numerous peculiarities like these, and oddness for oddness sake gets old quickly. Though the writing was descriptive and efficient, I couldn’t help but wonder more about this new post-epidemic world. We are given glimpses, but they never add up to a satisfactory picture. You are stuck deeply inside the emotionally scarred mind of a young female survivor and not given access to much else.

Several readers aptly describe Find Me as ‘dreamy’. It is that. But ultimately this is a dream in which not much happens.
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That was the most boring book I've ever read so far.

When I read the sample of the book I got the impression that the post-apocalyptic background of a fast-spreading disease that erases the memory of people would come to the front and become the main scenario of the book. I was mistaken. The book is a boring compilation of a boring teenager orphan who has immunity to this disease and lives in a hospital, isolated from the rest of the world, with some other patients (also immune) and hospital staff.

The book is narrated as some sort of diary, by the teenager. This add more annoyance to the plot because the book looks like it was actually wrote by a teenager. She's an orphan and what the book portraits are the stories of her life, which most of the part has no element of the apocalyptic disease.

OMG, it's so boring. I gave up of the book after 40% read. Then, before writing this review I decided to look for other reviews just to check whether I might be missing some 180 degrees twist in the plot, something like: ah, the disease invaded the hospital and people start dying one each time. I'm glad I gave up of this stupid book. Most of the reviews I read were saying the same thing: a tread of disconnected stories about the boring life of this teenager girl. The fact that I hate the most is that I didn't check the reviews before buying this book. I wasted money and time. Useless book.
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2 stars is a little generous. I really wanted to like this. There were some promising points, but it was built up to be a let down. There were so many story points that could have been explored further, but just never really were resolved in anyway. Like many reviewers said, it also felt like it was just two separate books.
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