Five Things About... How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu


As a whole, I thought this was a fascinating look at a (different) pandemic, but I thought that it was a bit uneven in terms of the first half being incredibly emotional and the second being a bit more detached sci-fi. At times it felt like two books, which may be a mark of Nagamatsu’s talent, but it just didn’t flow well for me.

If you are especially triggered by child-death or the pandemic stay clear. This isn’t Covid, but a virus that enters the ocean after melting glaciers uncover prehistoric bodies that died from the illness. Children are sickened the most and the worst, and my heart just can’t handle that. I’m glad I read it, but I just wish I hadn’t started it during a week that was already tough. 

Without giving it away, the explanation behind the origin of the pandemic was both so smartly created, but also way too science fiction-y for me. This is personal preference, though, since it really isn’t my choice genre. In a way, though, it did allow me to emotionally detach from the text a little, which I needed to after the heart-wrenching first half.

This is a cross between a novel and short-story collection. Each chapter is a different character and story, all with some degree of overlap. I am a total sucker for this structure, thoroughly enjoying the “ah ha!” moment when I see a character from another story mentioned or a shared setting. 

This book raises so many questions of morality and ethics- how does our culture handle death? How long could you stand to see your child suffer? What are we REALLY going to do about global warming? Should the funereal industry be regulated? 

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