The story of two brothers at odds over how to live their lives.
U.K. journalist Whitehouse’s debut is a morbidly funny and unusual story about a man who decides to demonstrate his dissatisfaction with the modern age. The life story of Malcolm Ede is narrated by his unnamed brother. As a youth, Mal was a handsome, charming boy with a lovely girlfriend named Lou, and an emerging dark side. “An outsider on his own terms, he was free to build his own rules around him, rules no one but him could ever hope to understand,” we’re told. “It felt as though this was his day, and that he didn’t want it to end. As if he knew that growing up was dying, not death itself.” And so it is that at the age of 25, Mal retreats from the traditional path of work/spouse/children. He goes to his titular bed, for good. The novel opens on Day 7,483, as Malcolm lay dying from a dramatic (and purposefully ghastly) metamorphosis. Over the course of 15 years, the former golden boy has eaten himself into a gargantuan state of sloth, growing so large he can’t be removed from the house. His overly indulgent mother protects him for her own deviant reasons, while the boys’ father nurses wounds from a long-ago mining accident. Meanwhile, Mal’s brother nurtures a secret passion for Lou, whose misguided affection lingers long after Mal’s connection to the world has been severed.
While the reader may ask—why?—the journey to the answers is remarkable, nuanced and coy.