The Atlantic

Suicide Club Takes On the Tyranny of Wellness

Rachel Heng’s debut novel turns the cultural imperatives of health into commands of a totalitarian state.
Source: Moolkum / schankz / Shutterstock / Arsh Raziuddin / The Atlantic

Wellness, we are told, is an epidemic these days, described variously as a multimillion-dollar business, a “near-religious” commitment, a status symbol, a scam. It has taken on the sheen of moral judgment that’s always been synonymous with beauty, incorporated a healthy dose of aspirational striving, and, propelled by ideals of self-empowerment, spread its stifling yet refreshingly scented miasma through daily life.

It’s timely, then, that Suicide Club, the debut novel by Rachel Heng, takes the moral and cultural imperatives around wellness and turns them into commands of the state. Healthy mind, healthy body, the characters chant to each other. Government directives with names like 477B: Facilitation of Healthful Consumption run constantly through their heads. Among myriad possible violations of the Sanctity of Life Act, offenses like deliberate inducement of cortisol generation can end careers or lead to the revocation of health benefits.

In this world—an only slightly shinier, denser, more sanitized version of Manhattan—enforced

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