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Jean Vale Horemarsh is content, for the most part, with the small-town life she’s built: a semi-successful career as a ceramics artist, a close collection of women friends (aside from that terrible falling-out with Cheryl years ago), a comfortable marriage with a kind if unextraordinary man. But it is only in watching her mother go through the final devastating stages of cancer that Jean realizes her true calling. No one should have to suffer the indignities of aging and illness like her mother did—and she, Jean ...
Jean Vale Horemarsh is content, for the most part, with the small-town life she’s built: a semi-successful career as a ceramics artist, a close collection of women friends (aside from that terrible falling-out with Cheryl years ago), a comfortable marriage with a kind if unextraordinary man. But it is only in watching her mother go through the final devastating stages of cancer that Jean realizes her true calling. No one should have to suffer the indignities of aging and illness like her mother did—and she, Jean Horemarsh, will take it upon herself to give each of her friends one final, perfect moment . . . and then, one by one, kill them.
Of course, female friendships are quite complicated things, and Jean is soon to discover that her plan isn’t as simple as she initially believed it to be.
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 betweenHeathersandThe Stepford Wiveson 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.
Posted April 6, 2012
This is one of those times when I wish I could conjure up my NC, high school girlfriends to sit around the living room and discuss a book. We would have a field day with this one! In fact, if your book group is wondering what to read next for a wild time, this is your best bet. Hilarious!! I hardly know where to begin to tell you about this book... It's just flat out good reading and side-aching laughs.
The first line that hit me so hard I still can't think about it or I laugh out loud in grocery shop lines is: "...Grana, after she had snapped her tail bone on a flight of polished stairs..." This may not seem funny out of context, but in the reading, it welled up and hit me full force and unexpectedly. It was the funniest visual I had had in years! "Snapping" a tailbone on a flight of polished stairs!!! FOTFL I could just see my own feet slipping faithlessly out from under me!
Trevor Cole has a sharp wit, a stinging humor, a sense of political comedy and comedy of manners. He can convey the real evils and the ridiculous in the every day, the death and destruction in a "butter tart that's the work of the Devil," and the heartbreak of an odd ceramic artwork that's too fragile to breathe on, let alone touch.
His characters have charm. They spark with charisma. He has that uncanny ability to hone in on the one major flaw that makes a person stand out, and that makes them own up to the ridiculous face they put on in public, and he can show those things to us through his characters. With the precision of the tiniest crochet hook he can slip in a knot of truth and draw out the best and the worst in his characters before you can flick an eyelid. He couches the worst with the cushion of humor. There's a slapstick quality to his writing, but it's never cheap laughs because the satire is well told. There is a gentle "love the flaws and vulnerability" in all of us message in this book that's so endearing.
Cole's inescapably loveable character, Jean, makes us remember the crushed dreams in ourselves. And, her willingness to sacrifice all in a frenzy of displaced grief is allegorical. What might any of us do if we let our minds loose after a life of creative repression, ridicule, rejection and humiliation at the hands of a mother like Jean's? Especially one whom she had to care for in her last, suffering days...especially when her mother had believed so strongly in and practiced euthanizing animals all her life!
Much black humor goes on in "Practical Jean" but it's so very funny, and you'll hardly know what's hit you when the real trouble starts happening. Honestly, I'm still laughing about passages in this book. And, at the same time, I carry a very special torch for Practical Jean...she was only trying to help.
Feeling sad? Get Practical...
Posted December 10, 2011
Having read Trevor Coles' first two books, 'Norman Bray In The Performance of His Life', and 'Fearsome Particles' I was eager to read 'Practical Jean'and was not disappointed. Jean, having taken care of her mother during her battle with cancer began thinking in very practical terms about her female friends. Not wanting them to suffer as her mother did, she wanted to give them her idea of the ultimate and most practical gift. Her take on her female friendship is a bit skewed, at times humorous, and sad. I appreciate Trevor Cole's humor. I highly recommend this book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 6, 2011
an interesting story line with even more interesting characters, Practical Jean is the story of a woman who would do any thing for her friends but goes over board because of her mothers need for every thing to be practically perfect, a great story of "friendship" from a maniac's point of viewWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 24, 2012
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Posted August 5, 2011
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