JILLIAN by Halle Butler


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In this wickedly disaffected, sometimes-funny debut novel, Butler creates a story of two exceedingly unhappy women, both sliding into a downward spiral shaped by everyday misery and petty hatreds.

Megan is a young woman trapped in a life she finds unbearably boring by her own discontent and inability to hoist herself out of a rut of mental squalor. A medical records technician in a gastroenterology office, she fills her spare time by drinking a ridiculous amount of beer, hating everyone she knows and idly contemplating suicide: “Everything about her life was so much the same from day to day that it almost didn’t exist.” The only thing she does with any enthusiasm is indulge in a particularly obsessive hatred for her co-worker Jillian, whose brittle and overblown optimism drives Megan crazy. Jillian is the office manager, a single mother, and beneath her cheery facade, just as unhappy, unsatisfied, and unpleasant as Megan. The novel consists of a series of ordinary events—awkward parties, kitchen conversations, drunken missteps, the acquisition of a dog—and its most striking feature is the way it digs into this small canvas of revulsion, bringing up recognizable portraits of our least generous, most unlikable urges. There is very little hope in this story but a great deal of outrageous, amusingly pointed meanness. Though it suffers from an oddly studious use of vulgarity, the novel has a degree of compelling, train-wreck allure. It offers up its characters for hatred and ridicule with such energy, obsessive detail and hopelessness that the reader can’t help but read on, through exasperating flinches of sympathy and recognition.

A novel that reads like rubbernecking or a junk-food binge, compelling a horrified fascination and bleak laughter in the face of outrageously painted everyday sadness.

Pub Date: Feb. 10th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-940430-29-4
Page count: 150pp
Publisher: Curbside Splendor
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 2014


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