BIFB Side Project: February, Trevor Cole, Practical Jean

 The Bare it for Books Calendar, sold in support of PEN Canada, is chock full of naked Canadian authors who stare at me from my wall and keep track of all my social engagements. It only made sense to read a book by each author in the month they grace. Click here for more info.

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“‘Nothing at all is going to happen to you, Fran,’ she said. ‘I’m sorry, but you and I are just not that close.’”

I’m not sure this is my kind of book. I didn’t dislike it – I just think other people would like it more (in fact I recommended it to a friend today). There were moments I smiled or even giggled a little but mostly it just caused me an undue amount of stress.

Jean Horemarsh tends to her dying mother for three months, before returning home to her husband Milt and announcing that she wished she could’ve ended things sooner. Why should Marjorie suffer so grotesquely when for years she put down sickly animals as a very practical town vet? People should have that option too.

While this may seem like it’s about to launch into a heavy debate on the merits of assisted suicide, Jean takes the idea in quite a different direction. Her friends, like her, are in their fifties, not quite ancient but certainly aging. Soon they’ll suffer too – wouldn’t it be better to enjoy one last moment of bliss before having your life quickly snuffed out? So Jean sets about to take a more practical course than she ever has, something her down-to-earth mother would certainly appreciate. Perhaps you see where this is going.

I’m someone who has to leave the room if I’m watching a movie I know is going south. Characters lie or deceive, and they’re about to get caught in some humiliating fashion? My cue to head to the kitchen for some soup (seriously I did that at the end of Blue Jasmine). Even when something is fictional, but I can’t help thinking through the real life consequences  – at the end of The Avengers my biggest concern was that New York couldn’t possibly afford the cost of cleaning up Manhattan (apparently I wasn’t the only one.)

So it wasn’t the friendly murders exactly that stressed me out. It’s just…Jean is so endearingly sincere in her good intentions, and the first couple go frankly quite well, that even while thinking “what the &*%$ are you doing” you sort of understand. Not enough to replicate, just enough to go with it. But of course being a rational person, you know there is no explaining her way out of this. How exactly does she think it will end?! Jean seems quite unconcerned about that, and I found it maddening.

Most of this anxiety was for naught (something my boyfriend tries to remind me of every time I get worked up about stories because Andrea you know how Mrs. Doubtfire ends why are you so concerned about him getting caught at the restaurant, oh also it’s not real). All things considered, it turned out fairly well for everyone who wasn’t murdered, and if you ask Jean even they got a happy ending.

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