Practical Jean by Trevor Cole
Author: Trevor Cole
Genre: Fiction (Contemporary / Satire / Black Comedy / Friendship / Marriage)
Publisher/Publication Date: Harper Perennial (10/18/2011)
Source: TLC Book Tours
Did I finish?: I did, another book inhaled in a matter of hours!
One-sentence summary: After watching her mother's slow death, Jean Vale Horemarsh decides the best way to express her love for her good friends is to ensure they die quick and happy.
Reading Challenges: RIP VI
Do I like the cover?: I do -- it's delightfully retro!
I'm reminded of...: James K. Morrow
First line: You might think this a rather horrible and depraved sort of story.
Was... I kicked out of bed for snickering while reading?: YES. This was another delightful book that had me giggling the whole way!
Am... I getting this book for my besties for the winter holiday?: YES. This group of friends all agreed to eat each other come an Alpine plane crash, so I think they're going to dig this book.
Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy -- hilarious and twisted!
Why did I get this book?: I love satire and black comedy. (Does that say something about me??)
Review: This book is twisted, hilarious, sad, horrifying, bittersweet, shocking, and wildly fun. The story follows Jean Vale Horemarsh, a ceramicist who, after watching her mother's slow death from cancer, decides the truest way to show her dear friends how much she loves them is to ensure they die quick deaths while happy. So she makes her list, and her fuzzy plan (she likes to go by feel, the same way she creates her art), and goes to work.
The result is awesome. Cole's writing is wonderful -- effortless and playful -- and I tore through this book in a matter of hours on a Saturday night. I like black comedy and satire and I loved the absurdity of Jean and her grand plan. Twisted and wrong, Jean was motivated by friendship, a desire to ensure those she cared about were happy, and I found myself really enjoying the ruminations on friendship. Jean's friendships spanned decades, went through various rough patches and estrangements, but in the end, she tried to maintain and remain connected with those who had a shared emotional history with her. It was moving, in a way, and obviously twisted, and I really delighted in that mix of tender and effed up! (Dear besties reading this review, I swear I'm not going to murderate you out of love!)
This book isn't gross or violent, however, despite the premise, and I think those who don't like gore but enjoy some macabre will get a kick out of this story. Certainly, I found it a perfect read for my October, and it has provoked some conversation among my friends about loyalty, love, and friendship. I don't know if it would exactly be a good group read -- those who don't dig black comedy will probably hate Jean -- but I found her to be a fascinating character. She might be my favorite anti-heroine of the year!