A Life Well Lived: A Review of Rachel Heng’s SUICIDE CLUB
Would you want to live forever?
In her debut novel Suicide Club, Rachel Heng reaffirms the notion of “be careful what you wish for” and challenges her readers to reflect upon the price they would pay for immortality.
We live in a world where the quest for long life is a multimillion dollar industry. In Heng’s near future setting, people live for hundreds of years. But at what cost?
In this engaging story, Lea Kirino is a successful woman with the potential to live forever. By all accounts, she has a profitable career, a loving relationship, a comfortable apartment.
They burst out laughing. Todd laughed too, right on cue. Their laughter was rich and cascading, a golden ribbon unfurling through the party, making people turn to look, people who were until then perfectly secure of their position in life but at that moment felt something was missing. (page 7)
Lea follows all of the suggested guidelines for nutrition (juicing), exercise (low impact, including no running), and avoiding stress (even too much smiling causes unwanted wrinkles).
It wasn’t often, these days, that things broke anymore. Everything was toughened, reinforced, enhanced. You really had to try to break something. (page 132)
Then one day, she sees her estranged father on the street and it changes everything. Lea begins to question being a “lifer” as she is confronted by the divergent and illegal ideas of her father and the mysterious Suicide Club.
The Suicide Club is made up of people who challenge the status quo that immortality – and the price one pays for it – is a worthwhile goal. The members are committed to exercising autonomy and control over the course of their lives: to eat what they want, live how they please, and die how (and when) they choose.
“Something has to change. In being robbed of our deaths, we are robbed of our lives.” (page 2)
Lea begins to question everything; everything she thought was true and right. Heng challenges her readers to consider issues of longevity but also family relationships, wealth and consumption, and what truly makes life worth living – and dying. For me, it brought up contemplation about the right to die with dignity and autonomy, though not specifically taken on in the book.
One of the strengths of Heng’s writing – and there are many – is her commitment to detail. Her ability to describe this world is rivaled only by her presentation of it; while she is descriptive in her storytelling, Heng also trusts her reader to put the various pieces together. She takes her time and brings the reader into Lea’s world day by day. The result is a dynamic, multidimensional setting and intriguing characters that set the stage for the readers’ reflections.
Lea felt a heaviness in her lower back, as if the weight of all their problems, all their pain, had crept into her body, wrapped itself around the base of her spine, settled there. Calcified, anchored, immovable. (page 274)
Suicide Club is a thought-provoking novel perfect for readers who like dystopian or speculative fiction that makes you think. I was both entertained and intrigued by the book; it held my interest throughout. With characters you will relate to and a story that will draw you in, Suicide Club is one of the strongest debuts of the year.
Find Rachel Heng online at https://www.rachelhengqp.com/ and on Twitter @rachelhengqp.
For further reading:
- Five Questions with Rachel Heng by Megan Leigh for Breaking the Glass Slipper
- Letting Go of What We Love: Talking With Rachel Heng by Kristen Iskandrian for The Rumpus
- Rachel Heng talks about her debut novel Suicide Club – Sceptre (video) for Hodder Books
- Suicide Club review on Kirkus
- Suicide Club: What if burgers and beer were illegal? by Annabel Rackham for BBC
Title: Suicide Club: A Novel About Living
Author: Rachel Heng
Publisher: Henry Holt
Publication Date: July 10, 2018
My Rating: Highly Recommended
Content information (potential spoilers):
Animal cruelty pages 100-103; several descriptions and discussions of suicide; bullying and violence pages 177-181; self-harm page 98; descriptions of sickness, hospitalization, dying, and death; family estrangement and death; sex pages 278-280; murder.
I received an advance reader’s edition of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Henry Holt, Declan Taintor, and Rachel Heng.
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12 thoughts on “A Life Well Lived: A Review of Rachel Heng’s SUICIDE CLUB”
This sounds like a really intriguing novel. Definitely thought-provoking, I’m sure, like you said! Thanks so much for sharing.
I always wonder how authors come up with these ideas; so jealous bc I just don’t fancy myself very creative!
This looks really interesting. On my TBR now!
Great! I will be curious what you think of it! Thanks for reading.
I hope I have time to squeeze this in because the subject fascinates me. I would never want immortality but I also don’t want to die lol So would I be tempted if it was a possibility? And is it worth the trade offs?
Karen @ For What It’s Worth
All good questions! I think it is further complicated when maybe you can live forever but your loved ones may not be able to… and yes, would I want to live forever if it meant no meat, no strenuous exercise (okay well maybe that one!), and other pieces that I am not going to say right now so as to not spoil it? Let me know what you think when you read it!
This is on my TBR list already the whole book sounds intriguing! Thanks for sharing!
Thanks for reading! I hope you like the book!
This sounds so intriguing. I’m not sure how I feel about the idea of immortality. Like someone mentioned above, I’m not excited about the idea of living forever, but I’m equally unexcited about the prospect of dying, lol. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book!
Same, same! I think after reading this, I feel more strongly about the right to die movement than I ever did before. Immortality sounds good on the surface, but in practice? I don’t think so. Thanks for reading!
Lazy August morning….I read your review and was fascinatied by the premise of the book. I just ordered it!
So happy to have found you blog and Classic Club list ( red before 2023) I live in The Netherlands ( ex-pat) and need some reading tips that would never reach me here through the ‘reading media’. I will be a frequent visitor to your website, thanks!
You are so kind, thank you! Glad to meet you – I am following your site now as well. It looks like you have a lot of info to offer there!
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