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Review of "You Are Kind" by Molly McGhee written by Jonathan Abernathy - Critique of "You Are Kind" by Molly McGhee by Jonathan Abernathy.
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Review of “You Are Kind” by Molly McGhee written by Jonathan Abernathy – Critique of “You Are Kind” by Molly McGhee by Jonathan Abernathy.

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If we were able to enter into the dreams of others, what would be revealed to us? Jonathan Abernathy’s recent employment opportunity allows him to explore this concept. Each night, Abernathy dons a pale and noisy spacesuit along with a bubble-shaped helmet, settles onto the bed that occupies most of his basement apartment, and awaits slumber.

In his role as a dream auditor, he will encounter various dreamscapes such as forests, creeks, and beautiful houses covered in blossoms. He will also witness mermaids tending to their hair in tranquil coves. As he observes the dreamers inhabiting these realms, he will witness them revisiting significant moments from their waking lives. However, the dreamers are unaware of his presence as he remains invisible, an intruder in their dreamscape, diligently recording his observations. With experience, he will utilize a hose from his pack to eliminate any nightmares, allowing the dreamers to wake up refreshed and free of worries, ready to serve the corporations that employ them.

McGhee’s bold first novel falls under the science fiction genre, but it is not solely focused on futuristic technology. Rather, the world in which the enigmatic Archive employees can access dreams is similar to our own. There are no intergalactic spaceships or amiable robots; instead, citizens of America face the challenges of living in unremarkable suburbs. Jobs are scarce and debts are relentlessly pursued with ruthless determination.

Abernathy, a stressed-out individual in their twenties, believes they have not achieved the American dream. They are struggling to pay off their deceased parents’ credit card debt and have student loans with a dangerously high interest rate. Their debt increases by $25,000 each year and the odd jobs they take on, such as working at a fancy hotdog stand, barely make a dent in their debt. The Archive is seen as the perfect job not because it allows them to delve into the intangible imaginings that unite us, but because it is a government job that provides them with a temporary break from their debt repayments.

McGhee writes from personal experience. The Nashville author was the first in her family to go to university, incurring $120,000 of student debt, and was chased by creditors for hospital bills after her mother died at the start of the Covid pandemic. In 2022, she left her job at a publishing company, and her resignation letter citing the overwork and limited opportunities faced by junior staff went viral. Jonathan Abernathy You Are Kind is dedicated to “the forgotten who have been worked to death”.

This work of dystopian fiction serves as a cry for millennial resistance and a darkly humorous commentary on corporate culture. Abernathy, determined to succeed in the Archive, communicates in empty phrases and masks his emotions with false positivity. Although his superiors dismiss his work, he manages to secure a promotion and begins a quiet romance with his neighbor Rhoda. However, his job is slowly destroying him: he develops a persistent wound and becomes irritable with his new assistant. Uncertainty plagues his thoughts. Does he truly comprehend the nature of the dreams he studies? And by extracting their trauma, do the dreamers lose a part of themselves? Most importantly, where do these nightmares ultimately end up?

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McGhee wrote the debut in third person, but the protagonist is still intimately portrayed. We are aware that Abernathy has fallen into a trap, and we follow along as the jaws close in on him. This creates a strong sense of urgency and momentum in the novel, but it also lessens the dramatic effect. Abernathy’s dream sequences are interesting, but they lack a sense of awe. He reflects that dreams without context are simply a collection of cliches and oddities strung together.

As McGhee delves further into the story, it becomes more complex, revealing unsettling connections between Abernathy’s job and his personal life. This also includes his developing relationship with a woman. At times, McGhee offers alternate interpretations of Abernathy, imagining ways for him to escape or change his circumstances. However, “Jonathan Abernathy You Are Kind” does not fit into this category of novel. It cannot simply ignore the challenges of crushing debt and other real-world problems, such as technology companies profiting off of emotions and the widespread use of opioids to numb them, which are evident throughout its pages.

Instead, the text eloquently addresses the issue of inequality and highlights small acts of rebellion and compassion that arise in seemingly hopeless situations. In the end, McGhee deviates from the usual acknowledgments and extends her gratitude to the “invisible webs” of editors, librarians, and teachers who played a crucial role in bringing her novel to life, symbolizing the power of connections and imagination.

Source: theguardian.com