Friday, June 05, 2020

Fiction Review: Lakewood

Lakewood by Megan Giddings was one of the selections for Booktopia 2020 (cancelled, of course, but with some author events being held online now - click events at the link). Exploring themes of class and race in a dystopian-like plot, it is now even more relevant than ever. I listened to this dark, disturbing novel on audio.

Lena is in college in Detroit, but the recent death of her beloved grandmother, who raised her, has revealed financial problems in her family. With the care of her mother, Deziree, and her overwhelming medical conditions now on Lena's shoulders, she's afraid she may have to drop out of school. But how can she ever earn enough money to support the two of them and pay all the bills? Then, Lena hears of a job that sounds too good to be true: if she signs up as a research subject for a company in the remote town of Lakewood, she will be paid an enormous salary, be given free housing, and all medical expenses for her and her mother will be covered. Lena signs up and drops out of school to move to Lakewood. She has misgivings, though, when she finds out that she must keep everything about her new job and her situation a secret from her family and friends. She and the others hired with her are even given fake jobs in a fake company, with daily discussion points of a boring corporate job to share with loved ones. It all seems kind of creepy, but Lena needs the financial security and hopes that she will be helping to bring medical remedies to fruition with her role. The experiments, though, are sinister and get worse and worse the longer Lena remains there: eye drops that turn brown eyes blue, a pill designed to make bad thoughts disappear, and a cure for dementia that only seems to scramble Lena's brain. In fact, all of the experiments have serious side effects and damaging consequences. How much is Lena willing to sacrifice for her family?

On its surface, this is a sinister, disturbing science fiction novel about evil science gone wrong. It soon becomes apparent, though, that this book is also a thoughtful exploration of the pressures of being lower class and not being able to support your family, and the long history of horrific scientific exploitation of people of color (i.e. Henrietta Lacks, Tuskegee syphilis experiment). The experiments that Lena is subjected to become more and more alarming, and she notices right from the first day that the research subjects are all minorities, while the Lakewood employees are all white. The tension and dread grow as Lena gets deeper and deeper into this diabolical situation, with some surprising plots twists in the mix. It's a dark, troubling novel but one that makes you think about issues of race and class and things we take for granted.

288 pages, Amistad

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. My review is my own opinion and is not influenced by my relationship with the publisher or author.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. Purchases from these links provide a small commission to me (pennies per purchase), to help offset the time I spend writing for this blog, at no extra cost to you.

Listen to a sample of the audiobook here and/or download it from Audible.

You can purchase Lakewood from an independent bookstore, either locally or online, here:
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Or you can order Lakewood from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.


  1. Oh, this sounds really good and like it has a number of layers to get one thinking.

    1. Yes, definitely a layered story, Helen - quite different than what I expected.

  2. The book is new to me so I really appreciated the review.