Friday, June 6, 2014

Review: The Suicide Shop by Jean Teule

You could be forgiven for wondering how a gloom-ridden, dirge-like book that touts suicide as a reasonable choice for someone who has failed at life can be funny. After all, suicide is a devastating option and it tears the heart out of those left behind. But fiction is a different animal than real life and in the case of Jean Teule's The Suicide Shop, the topic of suicide as a best option scenario is not only presented but celebrated in a blackly comic way.

The Tuvache family have been the careful proprietors of a suicide shop for generations. They are especially proud that they have no repeat customers, having suggested the perfect method and offered explicit directions to each person they have served, thereby helping them to have a successful death. They offer all different options to help people prematurely leave this vale of tears and they do it well. But all is not right in the Tuvache family. Father Mishima, mother Lucrece, oldest brother Vincent, and daughter Marilyn (gotta love the blatant symbolism in each of these names) are all properly gloomy and as somber as undertakers. But youngest son Alan is, from the cradle, a spark of light, happiness, and joy, a trait that is killing the family business. Because Alan helps people see that life will improve, that this low point isn't forever, and that they have a reason to go on. And surprisingly many people do choose to go on after his smiling, cheerful hope and caring.

Alan is entirely too sunny for a suicide shop and his parents want to smother the spark of optimism right out of him. He is portrayed as a typical youngest child, buzzing around, annoying his siblings, and acting completely contrarily to what his family wants from him. The novel is short and unexpected and the humor is definitely of the dark variety. The description of the things for sale in the shop are lovingly detailed and the reader can just see the whole fascinatingly morbid place. The writing is very minimalist and the tone starts as sad and pessimistic but lightens as the storyline unfolds. Alan's perpetual charm and determined positivity are the driving force of the plot as his family and the store's customers react to him, causing business to drop and mental outlooks to improve. This is an odd little book but as much as it seems to be about death, it is just as much about attitude and hope and belief in an improved future. And if you decide to read it, get back to me on just what's up with that ending, will you?

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book to review.

1 comment:

  1. I loved this one. So smart and snarky and my favorite kind of brief, clever satire.


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