Girlfriend in a Coma
"Karen, an attractive, popular student, goes into a coma one night in 1979. Whilst in it, she gives birth to a healthy baby daughter; once out of it, a mere eighteen years later, she finds herself, Rip van Winkle-like, a middle-aged mother whose friends have all gone through all the normal marital, social and political traumas and back again…"
For the first time since starting this blog, I have no idea what to say about a book. I honestly can’t decide if I liked this one or not.
The book is a about a group of friends who must deal with their friend Jared dying of cancer and then another member of the group, Karen, falling into a coma. We get to see the lives of the group as they grow, leave town and gradually return, one by one. One day, after seventeen years in her coma, Karen awakes and shortly after, the world ends.
The story was pretty unique and managed to hold my interest throughout. The fact that, before slipping into her coma, Karen reveals that she has been having psychic visions of the apocalypse and the first few chapters being narrated by Jared’s ghost, added a good deal of mystery to everything that happened in the novel and I felt compelled to keep reading to find out what it all meant.
That aside though, I found the book rather frustrating to read. During the hundred and fifty or so pages that span Karen’s coma, time rockets past at a pace that’s almost too hard to keep up with. The main character of the group, Richard, progresses through school, early jobs, a career as a property developer and a battle with alcoholism in the space of a few pages. One moment he is speaking fondly of his infant daughter, the next he bumps into her in the street as an angst-ridden teen.
All the other characters blast through similar arcs and I was left with the feeling that while I’d been force fed a lot of information very quickly, that the pace left it feeling a bit pointless. Arcs that should have let me sympathise with the characters left me mostly indifferent too them.
Then, there was the issue that, when the world ends, the cast seem pretty unaffected by it. Instead of feeling any real sorrow or sense of loss, they instead treat the world as their personal playground, gathering huge piles of cash to light fires, ransacking stores and playing around with cars.
They even seem unsurprised when Jared’s ghost returns to offer them guidance. You might expect the confirmation that there is life after death to shock someone, but the group just seem to accept him and simply get on with their lives.
Admittedly, this blasé attitude to the apocalypse is sort or explained/justified to the end of the book but even then I didn’t feel it was done convincingly, in fact I found it a little preachy.
However, despite all the negativity I felt toward the book, I still didn’t dislike it. What little attachment I felt to the characters was still strong and I still remained interested in what the events of the book meant. The earliest chapters of the book had a slight feel of David Lynch about them and that tone continued even as the negatives piled up.
So yeah…it’s a tricky one. I can’t really recommend it to you, but I wouldn’t say to actively avoid it. I guess I’d say, try it out if you’re interested, you might have a more solid opinion on it than I did.
I may return to this book in the future to see if my opinion changes, but for now, this is all I can offer you.