Adult Books

The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird – ARC Review

As soon as I saw the synopsis I knew I had to read it, it sounded so interesting and I did end up enjoying this book even though it was quite difficult to read at times.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

The year is 2025, and a mysterious virus has broken out in Scotland–a lethal illness that seems to affect only men. When Dr. Amanda MacLean reports this phenomenon, she is dismissed as hysterical. By the time her warning is heeded, it is too late. The virus becomes a global pandemic–and a political one. The victims are all men. The world becomes alien–a women’s world.

What follows is the immersive account of the women who have been left to deal with the virus’s consequences, told through first-person narratives. Dr. MacLean; Catherine, a social historian determined to document the human stories behind the male plague; intelligence analyst Dawn, tasked with helping the government forge a new society; and Elizabeth, one of many scientists desperately working to develop a vaccine. Through these women and others, we see the uncountable ways the absence of men has changed society, from the personal–the loss of husbands and sons–to the political–the changes in the workforce, fertility and the meaning of family.

TW: Discussions of a pandemic and plague, death including children, infertility, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, sexism

This book was such an interesting read although it was difficult to read at times and did have to put the book down a few times and come back to it because it describes the fear and panic of being in a pandemic and it was eerily similar to the covid pandemic. The first half was especially hard but once I got through that I was pretty much hooked.

This book discusses what would happen if a virus killed 90% of men on this planet, what would be the repercussions and how would that affect how we live and function as a society and honestly there is a lot to think about. From those who are part of the government to the police force to those in healthcare what would happen if most of the men in an already male dominated profession died? We need doctors and surgeons because people will still need to be treated, who would run the country in the aftermath, how would our society structures change. These are things we see discussed in the book and it was really interesting to read.

It also discusses motherhood and infertility especially as the virus kills male children too and many women are left grieving for their sons. It was incredibly difficult to read at times when we see the grief of these mother and how they struggle to cope with the loss of their husbands and sons and then the guilt of those lucky few who had husbands or sons who are immune. Then because there are barely any men left they can’t even think to have a baby again and then there are those who before were struggling with infertility and are now faced with the reality that they may never become mothers. One of the hardest things was the scenes of the women who were giving birth to baby boys who were not immune and then having to watch them die just days later.

Once a vaccine is discovered we do see a more hopeful future where people are just beginning to pick themselves up and come to terms with a new normal. Much like we have had to in the face of the covid pandemic. Those who survived the pandemic have been thrust into positions they may never have been able to get before because there are literally no men left in those areas. The majority of the government is now full of women and it was interesting o see how they handled things that maybe men would handle differently.

We also see at the beginning when it all starts, the doctor who discovers patient zero is largely ignored and labelled as hysterical and so it spreads rapidly before anyone takes it seriously. The sexism and misogyny present in the workplace means that so many more die before things can be put into place to reduce the death toll. Discussions about how women aren’t given the credit they deserve and the gender pay gap and so much more.

The main issue I had with the book and the discussions was how white centric it was and how the majority of focus was on the UK and US. I know that for women of colour and those living in Asia and Africa for example would have a really different experience in everything that would happen during the virus outbreak. And yet none of that was touched upon and the few mentions of places like Saudi Arabia was linked to trafficking and other places like Iran, Afghanistan etc were just mentioned to have no information about what is happening there after years of the pandemic. I’m tired of the BIPOC erasure in books especially in a book dealing with a worldwide pandemic.

Overall this book was an interesting read and did discuss some really important issues and I did mostly enjoy the book.

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