A mourning suburban daughter takes out her grief via murder.
Canadian novelist Cole (The Fearsome Particles, 2006, etc.) generates a bleak satire in his third outing, which falls somewhere between Heathers and The Stepford Wives on the vicious meter. “Everything began when Jean Vale Horemarsh had to look after her mother, Marjorie, who was dying of a terrible cancer in one of the soft organs,” writes Cole in the clinical, eccentric style that characterizes the novel. It seems that the experience of looking after her dying mother has taught suburban potter Jean the true meaning of mercy, after a fashion. And oh how strange the woman’s head can get. She almost pathologically ignores the failings of her marriage to her milquetoast husband Milt, who turns out to be having an affair with a friend, in her quest to ensure that her friends never suffer the indignities of old age. For starters, Jean takes her slutty friend Dorothy out for a night of drinking, skinny-dipping and fooling around with the local lads, before chopping her head off with a dull shovel. No less bizarre is Jean’s lesbian liaison (“a little unexpected”) with a college chum, ending with a poison-inducing back rub. For all its gruesomeness, there are reasons behind Jean’s obsession, and the creepiest scenes are in fact outclassed by the book’s more disquieting pauses. Among these disturbances is a flashback to Jean’s childhood, during which she methodically drowns all of her stuffed animals in response to her mother’s euthanasia of a litter of puppies, and a quiet interlude at a park where Jean shuffles her friends’ names about on slips of paper, trying to elect her first victim based on her affections.
A shudder-inducing satire that meditates more on the dysfunctions of the living than on the tragedies of the dead.