This was a book of two firsts. It is Andrew Kaufman’s debut novel, and it was also the first book that me & L read for the Walthamstow Book Club that meets at The Nags Head in the village (next meeting on November 29th for anyone interested – we’re reading The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen).
Anyway – at just over 100 pages long, this was a VERY quick read – definitely a little novella more than a novel. It was interesting that such a short story had the 5 of us in the group so divided. We all seemed to generally enjoy it, but that was where the similarity ended.
The story is of Tom, who is a regular guy, with no superhero powers – not unusual you would think, except his wife, and all the people in their circle are ‘superheroes’.
I say ‘superheroes’ in quotes as I’m not personally convinced that they were. the majority of the superhero abilities were rather mainstream. Tom’s wife is The Perfectionist, and everything that she does, or becomes involved in is perfect.
One of her exes is The Hypnotist (superhero power rather obvious) and at the party following tom and The Perfectionist’s wedding, he hypnotises her to make her unable to see Tom.
The main story arc of the book is set 6 months after their wedding – and The Perfectionist hasn’t been able to see/hear Tom in all this time, and has decided to move away from the pain and hurt of him not being around, so is flying to a new life. Tom (sitting next to her on the plane) feels that he only has until touchdown to make her see him.
Their superhero friends alter from those with what seem like genuine ‘powers’ like The Amphibian to those whose are rather mundane, like The Girl Who Keeps Falling Over.
Personally, I didn’t take the superheroes literally – I thought that it was more of a ‘we all have our own abilities and characteristics that set us apart from others’ kind of message – but it seems that I was the only one in the group that went down that path, so my experience of the book was quite different.
I felt like there was a germ of an idea, but that it wasn’t fully explored. the way that there were so many characters included who had a tenuous link to the main characters, but they just had a paragraph explaining their power added to that feeling. I really felt like this book hadn’t been written, but I was reading the author’s notebook of ideas.
I loved the ideas, I loved the thought of some of the characters, I genuinely felt amused by some parts and I loved the ending as I thought it was very clever – but the journey felt like I had taken a shortcut and missed all the scenery. And there was one scene I genuinely disliked and was so fluffy that I was rolling my eyes whilst reading it (not that easy to do, believe me!)
So – overall, i would suggest reading it, as it is VERY unusual, and you would only be able to understand that from reading it – and at least it wont take very long!