Book Review: Jonathan Abernathy You Are Kind by Molly McGhee

Navigating the murky waters of late-stage capitalism with a deft hand and a keen eye, Molly McGhee’s Jonathan Abernathy You Are Kind is a debut that feels like the birth of a comet: brilliant, unexpected, and impossible to ignore. This novel, set against a backdrop of existential dread and financial instability, introduces us to Jonathan Abernathy, an everyman ensnared in the throes of debt, dreaming of a way out.

Abernathy’s journey into the world of dream auditing for the Archival Office—a government contractor moonlighting as a productivity enhancement service—reads like a manifesto of the millennial experience, marred by student loans and the exhaustive cost of living. Abernathy’s job, entering peoples’ dreams to scrub away trauma and stress triggers, is at once a fantastical exploration of our deepest fears and a piercing critique of the lengths to which society goes to maintain a facade of productivity and happiness​ (PublishersWeekly.com)​.

What makes Abernathy’s story resonate is not just his fight against the capitalist machine but the tender, almost pitiful, love he harbors for his neighbor Rhoda and her daughter Timmy. This love story, fraught with impossibility and unrequited feelings, adds a layer of poignant humanity to the narrative. As Abernathy navigates the complexities of his job, auditing nightmares and, eventually, the dreams of Rhoda herself, we’re given a front-row seat to the emotional and ethical turmoil such a responsibility evokes​ (Masters Review)​.

McGhee’s narrative is a kaleidoscope of magic, mystery, and eerie mysticism, where the lines between the real and the unreal blur in the most unexpected ways. The novel starts slow, a deliberate choice that allows readers to immerse themselves fully in the world McGhee has crafted. Yet, as the story unfolds, the brilliance of McGhee’s writing shines through, revealing a world where debt is not just a financial burden but a spectral force haunting the American psyche​ (Masters Review)​.

The novel’s handling of dream auditing is a masterstroke, presenting a reality so bizarre yet so utterly believable that one can’t help but ponder its implications. Abernathy’s descent into existential dread, mirrored by the Archival Office’s sinister underpinnings, creates a narrative as compelling as it is cautionary. Ling Ma’s Severance fans will find familiar ground here, in the biting depictions of financial instability and the absurd lengths to which individuals go to find some semblance of stability​ (PublishersWeekly.com)​.


Jonathan Abernathy You Are Kind is more than a debut novel; it’s a stark reflection of our times, a mirror held up to the absurdity of the modern workplace and the haunting realities of financial instability. Molly McGhee has not only penned a narrative rich with fantastical elements but has also laid bare the emotional and psychological toll of living under the shadow of debt. It’s a book that demands attention, not just for its imaginative prowess but for the conversations it will inevitably spark about love, life, and the pursuit of happiness in a world that often seems devoid of it.

Publisher: Astra House
Publishing Date: October 17, 2023