Review: The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird


My Rating: 10/10

Synopsis

Only men carry the virus. Only women can save us all. 

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. 

In The End of Men, Christina Sweeney-Baird turns the unimaginable into the unforgettable.

My Review

“…and I realize that the only thing scarier than knowledge is the lack of it.”

Why? WHY do I love apocalyptic, plague-ridden books so much? To be fair, The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird deserves ALL of the accolades. My heart? My poor heart has some qualms though. I finished it in one day despite the palpitations and mounting anxiety I felt while reading.

The End of Men obviously hits even harder because we are going through a pandemic right now. I’ve read pandemic novels before. When I read Wanderers by Chuck Wendig (which I adored), I was blissfully unaware of how it felt to live through a pandemic. I was scared, but it didn’t feel like a reality. Oh, how little did I know. Reading The End of Men, I feel every bit of terror these characters feel. As an asthmatic with a young child, as someone who has had loved ones contract and die from it, COVID struck fear into my heart. That fear has only slightly lessened now that I’m vaccinated, as I still worry about my young son daily. These women fearing for their husbands and kids and watching loved ones face death are all too relatable. 

“Who knows how far this virus has spread across my house? I can’t see it, can’t smell it, can’t hear it?”

In this novel, you have doctors fighting tirelessly against this virus with science and logic while being ignored by major health and political officials, racing against the clock to find the cause and cure. The message boards are being lit up by conspiracy theorists– in this case, incels who believe that women manufactured this virus to punish men. Everything is being made political and logic is going out the window in a time when people should be working together to keep others safe. People are trying to monetize a cure for a virus that is killing people. Sound familiar? What’s amazing is that Christina finished writing this before the pandemic, but it goes to show that human nature is often too easily predicted in times of crisis.  

This novel raced along at breakneck speed, demanding to be read. The multiple POVs were so well done, giving us a view from many levels and different types of people. This fictional pandemic is much worse than the one we are going through, but it still prodded at the tender parts of my heart. It had me in tears at times. The End of Men is a constant emotional rollercoaster. Though there was obvious fear, there was the hope that science brings. The determination of these women to find a cure, to save society even as they are intensely grieving was so inspiring. Watching women grapple with their grief, with their jealousy of the women around them with daughters or immune husbands was heartbreaking. I think it is natural to feel animosity towards people when their life is going better than your own, especially when it is no fault of your own that your world has fallen to pieces.

“She can’t understand, and I hate her for it. I love her and I loathe her and her two daughters and her immune, living husband. I miss her and I hate her so much I can barely see. One day maybe I won’t be so angry but that day is not today.”

The End of Men is broken down into parts, we follow along the whole pandemic from patient zero. As the numbers of men are dwindling, we see a societal shift of women being the ones in charge. It’s a very interesting concept. While we can laugh and make jokes about life without men, the fact is that we need sufficient numbers of men and women to keep the human race going.

This is an amazing book. It made me want to hug my son and my husband. Where there were tears, there was hope. Where there was the unknown, there was the comfort of science. Where there was destruction, there was rebirth. The End of Men is brutal, scary, but oh so marvelous.


“Bad things and good things can coexist,” Amaya says with a sad smile. “And we have to find the good where we can.”

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