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’.