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

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic6 min readWellness
Measles Can Be Contained. Anti-Semitism Cannot.
Just as the anti-vaccination movement feeds off a handful of fringe outsiders, long-standing stereotypes about Jews have found a new vector in the latest outbreak of the disease.
The Atlantic3 min read
Private Companies Are Building an Exoskeleton Around Earth
SpaceX and its competitors plan to envelop the planet with thousands of small objects in the next few years.
The Atlantic7 min read
The Day the National Guard Raided a Dorm in North Carolina
Violence in the spring of 1969 marred the commencement festivities for that year’s North Carolina A&T graduates. This year, they finally got to celebrate.