Ohhh man, I’m excited to write this review. I hope I make sense…
So, Practical Jean is a novel about Jean Vale Horemarsh, a middle-aged woman in a small town. She’s got a nice quiet life – she makes and sells ceramics, she has a nice ordinary husband, and she has a nice circle of close girl friends. After watching her mother die of a devastating cancer, Jean comes to an epiphany – no one deserves a long, painful, drawn-out death by old age or illness. And so Jean comes up with a plan, to save all of her closest friends this terrible ending – she’ll give them one last moment of beauty and happiness, and then kill them.
This book is so twisted… in such a good way. I completely sympathized with Jean (before she goes all kill-y). I’ve been watching my grandmother VERY SLOWLY deteriorate ever since she had two strokes four years ago. She’s 92 now – because of the strokes, her walking is terrible and she has trouble talking. She really just watches tv all day. And she was just diagnosed with pancreatic cancer over the summer. I love my grandma – we were really close as I grew up – but I cannot imagine a more horrible life. I’ve developed a serious fear of getting old and invalid. So I COMPLETELY UNDERSTAND when Jean realizes that no one should have to suffer through old age and terminal illnesses like that. Death really does seem like the kinder option at some point. HOWEVER, Jean then goes off the deep end and decides that she should just start killing off her friends. That’s kind of a no-no.
As Jean goes about trying to decide how to go through with her plan (and which friend is nicest and therefore should be the first), you become more intimately acquainted with her friends and actually grow to kind of like them. Also, everyone had a unique personality, even if they weren’t actually in the story very often. Hell, I actually liked Jean herself. Even though she went off the deep end, she was never a boring character. She was sweet and a bit of a dreamer, but she also had a practical streak. At one point in the book she goes on a bit of a feminist rant about how any time a woman is anything other than nurturing or submissive, she’s described by men as “hard” and I loved that! The writing was precise and vivid – I read this book pretty quickly. There were a lot of surprising, hand-over-my-mouth kind of moments.
Anyways, this book was great. Weird, but great. It’s definitely a dark, dark humor novel, but centered around really serious moral and philosophical issues. It explores death, old age, kindness, practicality, friendship, life… I’m definitely looking forward to checking out more from this author.
Sarah Says: 5 stars
… I also have to say something about this… maybe someone more familiar with publishing companies can shed some light on it for me. Some Harper Perennial books are these “P.S” editions – notice the little P.S. mark in the bottom right-hand corner of the book. That means that there’s cool stuff in the back – an author interview, cool tidbits, and the author’s reading recommendations. I recently read Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman, which was also a P.S. book and really liked it. I’m wondering if there’s a way to specifically search out books with this P.S. stuff in the back? It seems that I like the books that feature it, and I’d like to read more like these.