One of the seven definitions in the Merriam Webster Dictionary of “song” defines it as a poem set to music, or a melody written for a lyric poem or ballad. In contrast: a “fairy tale” is defined as a children’s story about magical and imaginary beings and lands, or a fabricated story, especially one intended to deceive. I looked those up after reading the first sentence (maybe even the refrain?) of Paul Tremblay’s Survivor Song: “This is not a fairy tale. This is a song.”
At the outset, Survivor Song gives us a glimpse into a tragically familiar tableau: the United States in the midst of a pandemic—a highly contagious variation of the rabies virus, passed through saliva, with a near 100% fatality rate due to its rapid onset. There are government-mandated curfews, a food shortage, and strict shelter-in-place laws. We see all this through the eyes of the very pregnant Natalie, just outside of Boston, as she faces an even more familiar struggle: parsing conflicting information in the form of social media posts, radio interviews, and byzantine government statements, trying to figure out what exactly she needs to do to keep her unborn child and husband safe.