It’s quite surreal to read a book that before this year would have simply been another futuristic thriller set in a post-modern world filled with drug-resistant viruses and elderly people being denied life-saving medication. Reading this now, in the times we’re currently living in made it all seem just that bit scarier and a whole lot more real.
Told in alternating timelines from different points of view, the story is told by Kate, Lily and Mary. With flashbacks to the years ‘Pre-Crisis’ in South Africa we see the unfolding of a story about the search for plant-based medication that can assist the rampant spread of TB in the country. In the present day, the reality is a frightening one. Reaching the age of 70 is basically a death-sentence as antibiotics can no longer be administered to anyone over that age should they succumb to any type of infection. The elderly are bundled off to ‘facilities’ and eventually ‘Waiting Rooms’ where they will die. And the slightest thing can cause infection: a scratch, a bump, a minor thoughtless move could mean the end of it all.
Kate has just lost her adopted mother and decides that now is the time to search for her birth-parents. Little does she know where the journey will lead her and her own family. The interactions between Kate and her own teenage daughter Sasha were moving and anxiety-ridden: a mother trying her best to protect her child from the harshest realities in a world where everything is frightening and can cause untold devastation. Meanwhile, Kate tries to quell memories of a time ‘before’ … before masks and gloves and fear of what each new stranger could introduce into your life. It all felt extremely real.
Touching on South African politics – although this isn’t dealt with in depth, but merely used as a conduit and backstory – the plot develops over a landscape where you can feel fear at every turn. It hangs over each of these chapters like a heavy blanket, adding to the atmosphere of foreboding that builds throughout the story.
This is a 4-star read that’s perfect for those who don’t mind reading about a topic that is very close to home for most of us at the moment. I wouldn’t exactly call it escapism right now, but the combination of medical facts with a human story is well executed and I’d highly recommend it.
Many thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Blog Tours, together with Orenda Books for inviting me to tour with them. Take a look at what other bloggers are saying about The Waiting Rooms …