THE FERRYMAN by Justin Cronin
Cronin transports us to the mysterious island of Prospera, a secluded utopia, where super talented and creative adults live steeped in idyllic lives – productive careers, evenings out infused with cultural events and fine dining, and marriage contracts that only run for 15 years to keep things fresh.
All Prosperians arrive to the island from The Nursery, a separate nearby and foreboding island, as teens. They have no memories but are competent. They get assigned guardians to act as parents, and immediately get enrolled in university to tease out their unique attributes. Each citizen lives out long, fulfilling lives until they deteriorate to the point that they opt to return to the Nursery to be recycled into a new life, memory-free.
Never mind all the profoundly dissatisfied workers who live in The Annex, and cross over by shuttle each day for thankless and poorly paid work keeping Prospera running- from housekeepers to groundskeepers to sewage control. While they get to have children and live relatively more normalized human lives, discontent flares sparking everything from religious fervor to deep, rising rebellion against the ruling class.
Proctor Bennett lives in Prospera with his brilliantly successful fashion designer wife Elisa, in a house abutting the ocean. They have the house in no small part thanks to her parents, especially her Mom who has the post of running all of Prospera. Proctor works for the Department of Social Contracts, helping those who want to end their lives to sign the social contract necessary to do so and then shepherding them as a Ferryman, aka counselor, to the Ferry leading back to the Nursery. Proctor finds his work fulfilling but draining when enforcement becomes necessary, overall bringing compassion to all his duties. But his wellness scores on an embedded monitor that all Prosperans have start to plummet, deeply concerning his wife and in laws.
Also Proctor has been haunted by dreams since his arrival to Prospera- dreams that serve as the tipping point of echoes of memories and that indicate not is all as it seems in Eden. Proctor continues to receive stronger and stronger distorting perceptions, from cryptic words shared from his guardian father who tries at the last minute to escape his Ferry back to the nursery, to his guardian Mom who had drowned herself off a boat, to a mysterious girl who asks him to teach her to swim by the ocean, to Thea who’s a gallery-owner deeply emmeshed in the art and people of the Annex.
Mysteries abound as Proctor embarks on a quest to find out what’s really going on.
A brilliant novel!!
Thanks to Random House, Ballantine Books and NetGalley for an advanced reader’s copy.