The latest novel from Jacobson (The Finkler Question, 2010) is set in the not-too-distant future, around 50 years after a genocide referred to only as "WHAT HAPPENED, IF IT HAPPENED." Since that event, in an attempt to remove sources of discord, much of what relates to the past–history books, diaries, family heirlooms–has all but disappeared; people have become more isolated; art has been reduced to anodyne ballads and landscape paintings. And, in order to erase "all invidious distinctions between the doers and the done-to," surnames have been changed: from Worthington, for example, to Gutkind, from Hinchcliffe to Behrens. In the small seaside village of Port Reuben (names of localities have also been changed), 25-year-old Ailinn Solomons, an orphan, and 40-year-old Kevern Cohen, a wood turner who has inherited his parents’ fears, meet and fall in love. As their relationship gathers steam, they begin to suspect that their meeting was no accident and that they are being watched, which in fact they are, by Ofnow, "the non-statutory monitor of the Public Mood," which is formulating a strategy to deal with an alarming spike in violence. This is a novel more about ideas than people. Though readers may not feel particularly invested in the characters, they will find plenty to think and talk about in Jacobson’s remarkable, disturbing book.
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