From Publishers Weekly
Two misfits find common ground and a unique, surreal friendship via unspoken words in Coupland's latest (after JPod
), a fine return to form. In the two years since his wife's (nonfatal) cancer was diagnosed, Roger Thorpe has devolved into a dejected, hard-drinking, divorced father and the oldest employee by a fair margin at Staples. A frustrated novelist to boot, Roger considers himself lost, continually haunted by dreams of missed opportunities and a long ago car accident that claimed four friends. His younger, disgruntled goth co-worker, Bethany Twain, one day discovers Roger's diary—filled with mock re-imaginings of her thoughts and feelings—in the break room. She lays down a supreme challenge for them both to write diary entries to each other, but neither is allowed to acknowledge the other around the store. Through exchanged hopes and dreams, customer stories, world views and cautionary revelations (time speeds up in a terrifying manner in your mid-thirties), the pair become intimately acquainted before things unravel for both. Running parallel to the epistolary narrative are chapters from Roger's novel, Glove Pond
, which begins having much in common with the larger narrative it's enclosed in. Coupland shines, the story is humorous, frenetic, focused and curiously affecting. (Oct.)
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Relentlessly contemporary Coupland helped explode the Gen-X mind-set, and now follows his specimens as they stumble into their inevitable midlife crisis. Roger, a forty-something alcoholic washup and aisle-jockey at Staples ponders the unlikelihood of escaping one's pitiable little life. Another soul trapped in the sterile confines is Bethany, a goth girl with her own private disaster of a life. The two form an unlikely friendship in this cleverly crafted, bitterly funny epistolary novel, while at the same time Roger works on his own novel, a Cheever-like exercise wherein bitter couples lob witty insults at each other while drowning in Scotch and failure. When the Roger and Bethany story lags and meanders, it is this gloriously bad novel that keeps the reading so mightily entertaining. Chronicling life's crises that don't only happen in the middle, Coupland mostly coasts along on being cleverand he is almost always very cleverrather than heartfelt as his creations slowly tick off the things that they will never become. But just because it's intentional doesn't change the fact that this is about as warm as fluorescent lighting on goth-whitewashed cheeks. Chipman, Ian