Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Practical Jean by Trevor Cole

Title: Practical Jean
Author: Trevor Cole

Genre: Fiction (Contemporary / Satire / Black Comedy / Friendship / Marriage)
Publisher/Publication Date: Harper Perennial (10/18/2011)
Source: TLC Book Tours

Rating: Liked.
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!

16 comments:

  1. I have been really excited about this book and have been eager for the book to be released. It sounds like the perfect book for me, as I love black comedy and I love the premise as well. So glad to hear that you loved it, but too bad that the wife kicked you out of bed for snickering! I can't wait to let you know what I think of this one!

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  2. I have been really excited about this book and have been eager for the book to be released. It sounds like the perfect book for me, as I love black comedy and I love the premise as well. So glad to hear that you loved it, but too bad that the wife kicked you out of bed for snickering! I can't wait to let you know what I think of this one!

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  3. I love this review. Love it. Am jealous of it. Wish I'd written my review first so I wouldn't be intimidated by this one. Damn. That'll teach me to pick up books later than sooner.

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  4. @Heather: It was *so* good. My wife is reading it now and I'm sure she's going to love it too -- she's a fan of darker fiction. I hope you love it!

    @Steph: You are too awesome -- thank you! And I can't wait for your review -- I'm always jealous of your reviews! Can't wait to see what you think -- I'm dying to gush about it with others (good thing my wife is reading it now!).

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  5. Hmmm Hilarious and twisted, and a conversation started to boot! Sounds like something I need to pick up!


    Adding it to my list right now!

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  6. These days, my attention to detail isn't that great. I thought this book was about housekeeping tips and I never noticed the knife on the cover. Lord, sometimes I need help!

    You made this one sound really fun.

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  7. @Teresa: YES, you do! If you read it, let me know what you think!

    @Ti: HA - I missed the knives on the hardcover version but it jumped out for me on this cover. The book is sneaky that way -- very comfortable prose, very sane, then BAM! Crazy murderous protagonist. It is awesome.

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  8. I am glad to hear you liked Jean so much. I am excited to read this one!

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  9. "Was... I kicked out of bed for snickering while reading?: YES."

    That's awesome. A great reason to get sent to the couch! :)

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  10. Sounds twisted and funny for sure! I live that you were kicked out of bed while reading it lol!

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  11. I thought this was going to be some kind of annoying chick-lit type book...,hanging my head in shame>

    It sounds a terrific entertaining story and I love black comedies. Your review made me laugh so I cannot wait to read this book!

    Btw, it sounds like your group of friends has some interesting conversations....I suggest you don't go flying in the Alps! :o)

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  12. I loved this book when I read it last year! And the ending had me rolling on the floor!

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  13. Sounds good! I will have to check it out!

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  14. Oh, this sounds good. I love books that aren't afraid to be just a little bit wicked and take a walk down a less conventional lane. It can be hard to nail black humor in writing, but it sounds like Cole pulls it off. I will absolutely have to check it out!

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  15. Audra: Seems our feelings are mutual, then. :) I am actually going to start the book over because these days I can't read a page without getting interrupted and having to put the book down to work. Not sure when my review will be, but I look forward to sharing thoughts!

    Posting your review on the fb page of the bookshop where I work, because I suggested the book for book club last night!

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  16. Great review/discussion. I found this as funny as the book. Thanks!

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