“Packed with tension, pathos, and vitality . . . This is a potent first novel from a formidable talent.” — Minneapolis Star Tribune
“The best fictional account I’ve read of the way the internet has shaped our inner lives.” — Guardian (UK)
At twenty-three Alice Hare, a loner, arrives in New York with only the vaguest of plans: to find a city to call home. Instead she discovers the online profile of a Japanese writer called Mizuko Himura, whose stories blur the line between autobiography and fiction. Alice becomes infatuated with Mizuko from afar, convinced this stranger’s life holds a mirror to her own. Realities multiply as Alice closes in on her “internet twin,” staging a chance encounter and inserting herself into his orbit. When Mizuko disappears, Alice is alone and adrift again. Tortured by her silence, Alice uses the only tool at her disposal, writing herself back into Mizuko’s story, with disastrous consequences.
“A smart and lyrical evocation of that murky emotional terrain between our online and offline selves.” — Vice (UK)
“At once a riveting mystery and a literary tour de force, Sympathy had me spellbound from the first page to the last.” — Emily Gould, author of Friendship
Sudjic's engrossing debut novel explores how technology dissolves personal boundaries while stripping away true intimacy. Alice travels from London to New York to stay with her sick grandmother during the spring of 2014. Even before she meets Mizuko, a writer who teaches creative writing at Columbia, Alice is obsessed with her. When circumstances align nudged as far as possible by Alice for the two of them to meet Alice is desperate for the kind of closeness she's always imagined could be possible between her and the lauded writer. Physical, emotional, and digital boundaries are tested and broken as Alice struggles to replicate her close connection with Mizuko's social media persona in her organic relationship with the real Mizuko. Whether that will happen rests on Mizuko's ever-changing whims, but she simultaneously wields her technological abilities over Mizuko, who is transfixed by social media. Will the flesh-and-blood reality ever fall in line with Alice's Instagram-addled fantasy? Sudjic's story is disjointed, alluring, disorienting, and provoking, touching on many contemporary concerns arising from the pervasiveness of social media. At many moments the character of Alice is rather too inscrutable, and Sudjic's steady, reliable prose is not enough to anchor some of Alice's more dramatic actions. While some readers will find the ending confusing and unsatisfying, none will be bored by this frenetic, timely story of digital fixation actualized.