Last Site Media (2021)
Reviewed by Megan Weiss for Reader Views (03/21)
“Cessation” by Michael DiBiasio-Ornelas is told by Aaron, a young entrepreneur trying to navigate his way through the Great Recession. Aaron started his own business, after years of slaving away as just one more corporate peon, aimed at helping smaller businesses confront and fight back against copyright infringement. Aaron knows firsthand how the greedy, big corporations – the 1% – can be, and how unscrupulous these companies can sometimes be about using content that might not have been created themselves. When his business starts circling the drain during the 2008 recession, he hires Walker, a young man experiencing his own existential crisis. Walker, though seemingly a young, successful, vibrant guy, seems to have a clawing sadness and despair weighing him down. As Aaron gets more tangled up in Walker’s messy inner world, he finds himself wanting to help the younger man, but not really knowing how to do so. Ultimately unable to save Walker from himself, Aaron reflects back upon his brief, yet impactful relationship with Walker to consider what else he might have done to save Walker.
“Cessation” is a unique reading experience. With few active scenes and not much dialogue, the book mostly seems to take place within Aaron’s thoughts. Though slow-paced at times and with a tendency to digress, Aaron’s thought-process sets the tone for the overall book, and therefore creates an environment that is quite personal and intimate. The reader feels quite connected to Aaron, despite the fact that the book reads largely like an inner diary than a full narrative.
“Cessation” provides commentary on mental illness, capitalism, and the human tendency to personalize the sufferings of others in order to fit them into our own category or troubles. While mostly unconscious, throughout the book Aaron seems to be evaluating his words and actions leading up to his meeting Walker, throughout their brief, yet close companionship, and after Walker’s death. He seems to genuinely wish he could have done something to help Walker more, but at the same time it is evident that he is having trouble deciding whether this desire is for his benefit or Walker’s.
When looking at other people’s sufferings, do we, as humans, desire to help because we genuinely feel empathy toward this other group or individual? Or do we want to help only to assuage our own guilt at not having done more, or failing to help, in the past?
I think the setting of “Cessation”, during the 2008 recession, was a great choice. It is a time that a lot of readers will be able to identify with, and which has a lot of parallels to our current social and economic statuses. Both then and now America has had to reconsider how great its Capitalist system really is, since it seems to be failing so many people in terms of job loss, homelessness, and financial instability.
“Cessation” provides a deep, thought-provoking reading experience. While it is not a book for those simply looking for light, quick reading material, it is a book that audiences more interested in existential crises and social commentary would enjoy. It is almost like a long, yet vital monologue capturing the innermost evils of American society, such as greed and corruption, while emphasizing the importance of human decency, common courtesy, and showing love to each other. In today’s social climate, these are topics and conversations that we need to have more often.