Lena Johnson is a college student, struggling with debt, coping with her grandmother’s death and her mother’s disability. She gets the opportunity to participate in a research project in a small town in Michigan, only why would they list the death and dismemberment benefits in the non-disclosure agreement? And the first thing she has to work on is memorizing her pretend work routine while the patient group is effectively tortured, both mentally and even physically. What a fascinating story Lakewood is - a coming-of-age story with a strong dose of social justice-framed psychological horror!— Daniel Goldin
NPR Book of the Year 2020
Electric Literature: One of 55 Books by Women and Nonbinary Writers of Color to Read in 2020 | Lit Hub & The Millions: Most Anticipated Books of 2020 | Ms. Magazine: Anticipated 2020 Feminist Books | Refinery29: Books by Black Women We are Looking Forward To Reading | One of The Millions’ Most Anticipated Reads of 2020 | Amazon Book of the Month Pick | Audible Editor’s Pick | Essence’s Pick| Glamour’s Must Read | Ms. Magazine’s Anticipated Read of 2020
A startling debut about class and race, Lakewood evokes a terrifying world of medical experimentation—part The Handmaid’s Tale, part The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
When Lena Johnson’s beloved grandmother dies, and the full extent of the family debt is revealed, the black millennial drops out of college to support her family and takes a job in the mysterious and remote town of Lakewood, Michigan.
On paper, her new job is too good to be true. High paying. No out of pocket medical expenses. A free place to live. All Lena has to do is participate in a secret program—and lie to her friends and family about the research being done in Lakewood. An eye drop that makes brown eyes blue, a medication that could be a cure for dementia, golden pills promised to make all bad thoughts go away.
The discoveries made in Lakewood, Lena is told, will change the world—but the consequences for the subjects involved could be devastating. As the truths of the program reveal themselves, Lena learns how much she’s willing to sacrifice for the sake of her family.
Provocative and thrilling, Lakewood is a breathtaking novel that takes an unflinching look at the moral dilemmas many working-class families face, and the horror that has been forced on black bodies in the name of science.
About the Author
Megan Giddings is a features editor at The Rumpus, a channel of the Los Angeles Review of Books, and a contributing editor at Boulevard. She is a recipient of a Barbara Deming Memorial Fund grant for feminist fiction. Her short stories have been published in Black Warrior Review, Gulf Coast, and Iowa Review. Megan holds degrees from University of Michigan and Indiana University. She lives in Michigan.
“Chilling...Giddings is a writer with a vivid imagination and a fresh eye both of the body and of society. This eerie debut provides a deep character study spiked with a dose of horror.”
— Publishers Weekly
“Giddings writes with eloquence, walking readers through the complicated world of Lakewood. They'll be eager to turn each page and read what happens next.”
"Lakewood is a thought-provoking debut and Megan Giddings is a young writer to watch."
— Kirkus Reviews
“Megan Giddings’ debut novel Lakewood is reminiscent of Jordan Peele’s terrifying film Get Out.”
“Both profoundly poetic and utterly compelling, Lakewood presents an intimate portrait of the physical and psychological trauma caused by the use of black people as test subjects for medical experiments in the United States and powerfully connects it to the broader legacy of environmental racism.”
— Ladee Hubbard, author of The Talented Ribkins
“Megan Giddings’ Lakewood is a gripping thriller of ideas in the tradition of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, depicting a terrifying world of public complicity and government-sponsored malpractice. Giddings asks: What happens when our want to be useful is weaponized against us, when the only way we see to help others is to invite harm upon ourselves? This is the rare debut that feels utterly of the now, unearthing our shared past even as it charges the reader to imagine and enact a better future, fast as they can.”
— Matt Bell, author of Scrapper
"Like Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale or Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives, Lakewood compels even as it unsettles. Megan Giddings writes with a scalpel and I’d follow her characters anywhere."
— Kelly Link, author of Get in Trouble
“An impressive debut. Megan Giddings has produced a novel of great emotional intensity. Her brilliant storytelling skills are on full display in this story which unfolds with subtle prose that deftly explores powerful themes of family, loss, responsibility, and friendship. Lena Johnson is a masterfully rendered protagonist, reminiscent of the characters of Toni Morrison, Gayl Jones and Jesmyn Ward, while appearing utterly new and fresh.”
— Jeffrey Colvin, author of Africaville