One Bloody Thing After Another Paperback – May 1 2010
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Quill & Quire
Following 2009’s Overqualified, Joey Comeau returns with another slim, quirky novel. The earlier volume contained a series of faux-confessional job application letters. Taking up where that book left off, One Bloody Thing After Another opens with a job interview gone horribly wrong. Not only does the applicant fail to get the job, she abruptly flees the interview after vomiting a “wet, bloody chunk of god knows what” onto the table of her would-be employers.
Meanwhile, Jackie, the novel’s adolescent protagonist, is struggling to deal with her violent tendencies and her mother’s ghost, all the while harbouring an unrequited crush on her best friend, Ann. Unbeknownst to Jackie, Ann keeps her own mother (the unfortunate job applicant from the opening scene) chained in the basement, for good reason. Her mother’s insatiable appetite for living flesh forces Ann to perform unspeakable acts on neighbourhood pets. When her sister succumbs to the same condition, Ann must go a step further, perpetrating an act of violence that the plot – half tongue-in-cheek though it may be – cannot quite sustain.
The horror genre represents a departure for Comeau, but the themes here are strikingly similar to those he’s previously explored: anti-authoritarian rebellion and youthful romance overshadowed by a heartfelt sense of loss. The gore and supernatural elements are a fitting complement to his characteristic blend of pathos and black humour.
Comeau’s prose is simple and direct, and the short chapters – many less than a page – make for a quick read. Though the book contains a good deal of grue, the plot is more playful and inventive than horrific or suspenseful. The reader gets caught up in Jackie and Ann’s adolescent exuberance; elsewhere, the vandalism and violence appear as half-formed expressions of hollow desperation. By ending with a Grand Guignol punchline, however, Comeau undercuts the reader’s sympathy for the subtler, emotional suffering of the novel’s characters.
"[Comeau] turns his adaptable talents to overt horror in this oddly touching novel of ghosts, friendship, bloody secrets, and family relationships. . . . A staccato structure allows for surprising intricacy in so few pages, and the crescendos of terror are leavened by moments of unexpected humor and warmth." Publishers Weekly
"The tone is poignant, sometimes wistful, and deadpan funny . . . The novel is more eccentric than gory, and what’s really shocking about it is that all the mayhem is finally about family ties, both severed and reconnected." Booklist
"The gore and supernatural elements are a fitting complement to [Comeau's] characteristic blend of pathos and black humour." Quill & Quire
"Comeau isn’t writing for suspense. Dealing with a zombie mother is treated with the same tone as Jackie’s confusion and struggle over her love for Ann . . . The real monster tormenting Comeau’s characters is the desire for something they can’t have and the reluctance to accept what they do." Telegraph-Journal
Top Customer Reviews
The description of the book on Amazon gives a little too much away right off the bat, but this sentence, I think, describes things well, without going too far.
"...a cantankerous old man, his powerfully stupid dog, a headless ghost, a lesbian crush and a few unsettling visits from Jackie's own dead mother, and you'll find that One Bloody Thing After Another is a different sort of horror novel from the ones you're used to. It's as sad and funny as it is frightening, and it is as much about the way families rely on each other as it is about blood being drooled on the carpet. Though, to be honest, there is a lot of blood being drooled on the carpet."
This book had me from the prologue, the "title" of which is "Ann's mother isn't feeling so good today". We find out that Ann and Margaret's mother is going for a job interview, which didn't go so well, because Ann's mother coughed up something bloody. E[...] Really? Seriously? This introduction, written so matter of factly that you might have to read it twice to see if you really read what you thought you read, reminds me a bit of Stephen King.Read more ›
One Bloody Thing After Another makes protecting your insane ravenous family members seem plausible. Even noble.
It's a horror novel with feelings other than fear and loathing and for that I love it.
I borrowed from a friend and then had to buy it.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I am on the fence about the length of the book, though it's a good thing where I am at. The book is short. Rather short. There are quite a few chapters that are only a couple of paragraphs long, and the following page is blank. So to read through 168 pages feels less then 100. And even though we find great depth for such a short book, in both characters and story, it could have easily been longer. But that also might have ruined the pleasure that this quick read did bring along. Lengthening the story though could have helped the ending. Not that it was bad, but there are things that might have been answered. It seemed a bit rushed to me. Not that there was "deus ex machina" or some quick solution to a problem. It just ended where things could have been developed further. Again, this is good and bad, but mostly still good.
I hope that Comeau pursues more writing, as I would like to read what he would come up with next.
Even the blank pages tell a little story... you just have to look carefully to find it.
There were moments of hilarious one-liners, but then there were bits of plot that wandered as if the author didn't quite know where he wanted to go with it. I mean, all of Part III was one character reliving earlier bits of the novel or dreaming, and one chapter even ended with "Etc." I know that was supposed to be comical, but it felt like the author stopped trying.
This book is short. Some chapters are only a few paragraphs long, and that makes for a quick read. I appreciate that, but sometimes the transitions between chapters left me wondering if content had been accidentally cut. Jumps in motivation or logic were sometimes hard to follow. I think this book would have been better (for me) if it took itself less seriously and joked around more. It came off like a cheesy horror flick at times.
The characters were...different, I guess. Their stories didn't always intertwine as well as I imagine the author intended, but each had a disturbing aspect to his or her life that I found interesting. I especially liked the old man's character, and his story was easily my favorite of those in this novel. So I guess we'll call that a draw.
This book read more like the text or outline for a graphic novel, which makes sense considering the author also works in that medium. However, that technique made bits of the narrative weak. He doesn't use many pronouns, so we hear the characters' names a dozen times on a single page. It has a simplistic tone I didn't enjoy.
Bottom line is I don't recommend this. There were good one-liners and some interesting characters, but I really only finished it because I spent a whopping $15 on the paperback. I think there are much better books available out there for much less.
Jackie, a rebellious lesbian teenager spends much of the book smashing things destroying, and escaping danger, all while calling on her late mother's ghost and courting her best friend. Ann enters the scene and draws in the reader with her less than conventional family situation, to say the least. Charlie, his beloved dog, and the decapitated ghost haunting him spend most of the book on the periphery but crosses lives with Ann in a gruesome yet almost comical dog-napping.
Comeau classifies this novel as a horror story, yet provides so little description in his style that almost all of the imaginative work is left up the reader. For instance, he was even able to construct a scenes of a woman eating a live baby and a litter of kittens that barely disgusted me. His lack of description and rampant use of short, bland sentences detracted from what could have otherwise been a terrifying short novel.
Although I was somewhat unsatisfied with the short sentences, one to three page chapters, and lack of detail, I would still recommend this book to someone with a twisted, sick sense of humor or anyone looking for a quick quirky read.
I received a review copy of this book though ECW Press.