April 15, 2008

Review: Dining with Death, by Kathleen Molloy

Title: Dining with Death
Author: Kathleeen Molloy
Originally Published: 2008
This Edition: 2008 (ARC)
ISBN: 9780978459901

This book came to me a few days ago for review, and I read it pretty much straightaway -- well, as soon as I finished the other book I was reading, anyway. And since then, I've been thinking and thinking about how best to review it. It was good -- very good -- but it wasn't what I expected from the promotional material, and that's throwing me a bit.

Let me remind you; here is the back-cover synopsis:
As friends leave her state-subsidized seniors' building, "Goodbye for now" becomes goodbye forever. Afraid to die alone, Zophia Žvirgzdas hunts for the perfect gay grandson. Can a topless walkathon, a marriage proposal, or the misadventures of a seeing-eye monkey distract her from her pursuit of progeny? Will the Angel of Death convince her that life is for the Living -- before it's too late?

To me, at least, that sounds like a comedy. More or less, anyway. But you shouldn't read this book thinking that it's a comedy. That doesn't mean that it isn't funny. It's very funny -- though it maybe would be less so to non-Canuckians, since it's choc-a-bloc full of Canadian topical humour -- and anyone picking this book up can expect some giggles. Maybe some guffaws.

But it's not all fun and laughter. Bad things happen. And, echoing the warning given in The Princess Bride, some of the wrong people die. Most of the deaths are bitter-sweet, or even humourous . . . but not all of them. Granted, this is a book about seniors and the Angel of Death (in the guise of various Canadian celebrities) is a featured character -- and so all the dying does make sense.

Molloy's prose is very strong. She has a good style and it works with the subject matter. There are lots of little things worth noting, like the pun-worthy names of some of the minor characters: Harry Kerry, Kermit von Tootalot. Dewalt Brody, the local unionized Angel of Death, who was unfortunately named for a power-tool company. Then there's the all-pervasive pharmaceutical chain, Pharmaphuk.

Not to say that there aren't parts that don't work. Here's the worst: during one of the last chapters of the book, Molloy puts in a reference to her own website. I know, it's all metafictional and whatever. It's also tacky, tacky, tacky. It's also redundant; the website link is also on the back cover and in two separate places inside the front cover. That certainly ought to be enough for anyone.

Apart from that (seriously: so tacky) I would recommend Dining with Death. Apparently there are a number of books in the series which are upcoming; the next novel, Rumbles in Arse du monde, takes us from Winnepeg to Quebec as the second stop in an eventual virtual cross-Canada tour.

This books reads like a blood-and-guts, bitter love-song to ageing. It tackles a lot of tough issues -- getting old, dying alone, cancer, widowhood, suicide, poverty -- with a twinkle in its (metaphorical) eye. And there's lots of sex.

I'm just sayin'.

1 comment:

Kathleen Molloy » Blog Archive » Silly back jacket blurbs! When did book reviews become silly? said...

[...] As seen on the back jacket of The Tristan Betrayal (a novel)            “Robert Ludlum continues to jolt his readers with fresh juice…” – New York PostGiven that I’m no expert on dead writers, I’d sure like to know where Ludlum got the juice.Shouldn’t it read:            “The estate of Robert Ludlum” or “Bob’s ghost writer” or “The Ludlum corporation” or “the Robert Ludlum marketing machine…” ???Book jacket quips like the juicy one above leave me scratching my head. When did book reviews become silly?I have plenty of respect for book reviewers – book reviewers love books. Book reviewers love to talk about books. Book reviewers are readers.  Book reviewers aren’t silly; marketing people that make up silly quips are silly. Dentists that put you in the chair, fill your mouth with hardening goo, and pretend to be called away to an emergency are silly. Fart pillows are silly. Book reviewers are not silly. So how come they allow the marketing folks to put silly quips on book jackets?I regularly surf different book review blogs because they are decidedly not silly. They’re fun, but not silly. These readers love books, and talking books. I don’t know these reader/reviewers from Adam, yet I’m starting to get a sense about their book tastes and, as a reader, I find myself trusting their recommendations. So far I have not been steered wrong. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy the reviews posted by participants in the 2nd Canadian Book Challenge – they are reading the books that I want to read.Let’s look at a book review blog that I especially like. Christine from the She Reads Books blog offers “anytime I write a review here of a book you have already reviewed, let me know in the comments and I will link to your review.” Creating a review link is a neat way to see what other readers have enjoyed about the story you’ve just devoured. And it could save you a trip to the library if the story sounds like a stinker. On the flip side, you might run out to your local indie bookstore because the review hit on something, something you want to sink your teeth into.See what Christine says about Dining with Death: http://shereadsbooks.org/2008/review-dining-with-death-by-kathleen-molloy/ [...]