Thursday, May 24, 2012

REVIEW: Offspring by Michael Quadland

Michael Quadland's Offspring is an odd read, bogged down by a loosely constructed plot that relies far too much on coincidence, but elevated by its marvellously charming characters. I lost interest in (or, perhaps, patience for) the story itself around the halfway mark, but I liked the characters enough to keep reading and discover what ultimately happened to them all.

Sadly, I actually wish I could have let the characters go their merry way without me. I honestly can't remember the last time an ending left me feeling so empty and bereft.

Anyway, what we have here is a lonely Vietnam veteran who donates his sperm for cash, a slightly unstable actress who craves the child her relationships have failed to provide, and a transsexual friend who brings the three of them together,and yet also keeps them apart. A chance meeting in an elevator prompts Karen to break the rules and seek out Hank, the father of her unborn child, while another series of chance encounters establishes an awkward situation where Joey/Josey isn't just flirting with her best friend, but potentially harassing an employee.

Hank is a solid enough, if unremarkable, character. As the central protagonist of the novel, he's kind of like the nice guy at work who you love to chat with in the elevator, but who you would never consider asking over to dinner. He's interesting, intriguing, and safe. Karen, by contrast, is a deeply troubled nut-case who, I kept thinking, should never be allowed to have another relationship again, much less a child. She was more like bitch you love to gossip about in the office, but would never want to be stuck with in an elevator. Josey was, no surprise, my favourite character in the novel. Perhaps a little too progressive, confident, and proud for a transsexual in the l970s, she was like the office free-spirit you wouldn't mind being trapped with in a broken elevator for a while.

The story itself wasn't nearly as amusing as I expected, and I found the pacing frustrating. I prefer a tale that moves along, that has a sense of purpose, and which is clearly moving towards a destination. Here, I felt more like we were biding our time and waiting for something to happen. I suspect it's the kind of literary tale that would appeal to those readers who love to stand around the book store or coffee shop and chit-chat, but I'm the kind of gurl who prefers to get in, grab what she wants, and get back out. A book for extroverts, if you will, whereas I am very much an introvert.

As for the end, I don't want to spoil the "fiery conclusion" but I didn't care for it at all. I guess I can appreciate it on some level, as a necessary progression of the relationships in the novel, but it left me shaking my head and asking WTF. A good book if you're interested in character studies and human relationships, but not so good if you're looking for a good storyline.

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