Canadian author Douglas Coupland's seventh novel could be subtitled When Bad Things Happen to Bad People. As the estranged members of the Drummond family straggle into Florida for youngest sister Sarah's impending space shuttle launch, we only begin to glimpse the true meaning of the word dysfunctional. The family, plagued by terminal disease, financial disaster, felonious activity, infidelity, and violence, is forced--by a series of ever more fantastic occurrences--to attempt to deal with each other. That would be an easier task if they didn't loathe one another with a ferocity usually reserved for war criminals. It's not quite Jerry Springer-style tabloid TV set in Disney's Haunted Mansion, but the family members do muster the strength to insult, assault, and infect one another with abandon. With the exception of the family matriarch, Janet, they are unappealing and selfish, but without Machiavellian brilliance. Instead, they're inclined toward out-and-out stupidity, blinded by self-interest rather than enlightened by it. As they bumble through misadventure after misadventure, there seems to be no reason to cheer for them. Even Sarah, the family's shining star, has her dark side.
True to Coupland's style, the book reads lightning fast. The author punctuates his narrative with clipped dialogue and punchy exchanges that advance the palpable sense of unease and tension running throughout. And amidst the acrimony, Coupland throws a genuine caper into the plot, involving Prince William's farewell letter to his mother, Princess Diana. Add to that the oppressive heat and the postmodern, pop culture junkyard of Coupland's Florida setting, and the entire book brews and builds like a roiling tropical storm. --S. Duda
From Publishers Weekly
The Drummond family at the center of Coupland's new novel resembles a month's worth of soap opera plots. Wade Drummond and his mother, Janet, both have AIDS. Janet, 65, was infected when her ex-husband, Ted, shot Wade through the side of his stomach and the bullet lodged in Janet's lung. Ted shot Wade because his son had accidentally had sex with Ted's second wife, Nickie. In consequence, Nickie is also HIV positive. Wade's brother, Bryan, a frequently suicidal musician, has hooked up with the self-named Shw, a young anarchist. Shw has told Bryan she wants to abort her baby, but secretly she is planning to sell it to Lloyd and Gale, a seemingly normal Florida couple with kinky secrets. Now, all the Drummonds are having a family reunion in Orlando. They are gathered to support Sarah, the successful member of the family, as she is about to be shot into space. Although slightly crippled, being a thalidomide baby, Susan has made a career as a scientist and an astronaut. Her bland husband, Howie, is covertly sleeping with Alanna, the wife of Gordon Brunswick, Sarah's mission commander and Sarah is secretly having an affair with Gordon. The item that sets this crew in motion is a letter from Prince William left on Princess Diana's coffin. It has somehow come into possession of a sleazeball named Norm, who wants Wade and Ted to convey it to a billionaire Anglophile based in the Bahamas. Complications, naturally, ensue. Like Chuck Palahniuk, Coupland mines tabloid territory for sensationalism, which he then undermines with ironic self-awareness. The can-you-top-this atmosphere will keep Coupland's Gen-X readers (the ones who religiously watch Cops for the laughs) totally amused. Author tour.
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