Hello Kitty Must Die by Angela Choi is one of the stranger books I have read recently, and I do recommend it. Fiona Yu is a youngish, hilariously twisted Chinese American woman with a take-no-prisoners attitude toward life. A Big Law lawyer, Fiona lives with her parents and has no love life. The disconnect between her parents’ traditional expectations and her own rogue intentions is massive, and yet they all live together. The first person narration of Fiona’s frustrations and utterly amoral nature gleefully pulls the reader into a bizarre, macabre tale. It is always impressive when an author can make the reader care about what happens to a truly appalling protagonist, and Choi does it with great zest. This very fun book reminded me of Arsenic and Old Lace, without the buffer of sweet characters with good intentions. Hello Kitty Must Die happily shares the manic zaniness of Arsenic and Old Lace and craziness of the best screwball comedies from the 1930’s. Underlying all the fun and mayhem, is the story of Fiona’s frustrations with the expectations and tedium of her life. Being a single, overworked lawyer with clueless, demanding parents presents real issues, and while the average person wouldn’t resort to Fiona’s fierce tactics, it’s hard not to bond with her, one way or another.
I thoroughly enjoyed Amy Poeppel’s first novel Small Admissions. This is a funny book and not a heavy read, but Poeppel has deft insights about friendship and our assumptions about our friends and relatives. The characters are appealing and just a little more complicated than they seem. Even the “bad guys” are kind of charming. Without giving too much away, Peopppel plops a young woman who is reeling from multiple personal failures into the admissions office of a highly competitive Manhattan private school. The book is populated with several points of view and highly entertaining emails, all of which combine to keep a brisk, neurotic pace. Poeppel’s deft treatment of neurotic, competitive parents, coupled with the highly useful question of how much can and should you help flailing friends makes this a thoughtful book, that was also a hoot to read. Small Admissions would make a great movie!
In the 1930’s, the English novelist D.E. Stevenson wrote a warm, funny book about village life. The millieau of Miss Buncle’s Book is familiar to readers of E.F. Benson’s Lucia novels and the genre of village mysteries. There is no murder here, but the village is faced with the mystery of who wrote a novel that describes the village and some of its more prominent citizens all too clearly. Stevenson empathizes with the undisclosed author and her genteel poverty. The books’s humor largely lies with the reactions of some of the more self-absorbed and pretentious members of the community to their inclusion in the book. Their outrage is hilarious. There is an undeniably warm and cozy quality to this book, but it also has an interesting and sometimes surprising plot line and a brilliant take on how people perceive themselves and others. I recommend this book as a satisfying and clever read.
This is a great book! For no particular reason except my obsessive alphabetical-by-author selection process, I recently picked up and devoured Carole Enahoro’s 2010 over-the-top novel Doing Dangerously Well. This chillingly funny book concerns the exploits and machinations of a sleazy bunch of characters determined to sew up and profit from monopolizing Nigeria’s water supply. There are the corrupt, paranoid politicians on the ground in Nigeria and then there are the corporate sharks of a huge, blatantly corrupt American conglomerate. On both sides of the ocean, the parties are so busy fighting among themselves that they fail to account for outside opposition to their overall plan. Mary and Barbara Glass, two sisters on opposite pages about everything except for the glee they each share in tromping the other, provide a crazy theme of family failure to complete this oddball satire about the deadly business of access to water. You really need to read this book. It is just amazing!
Carole Enahoro, the author, has a Nigerian father and an English mother, and has grown up in Nigeria, Britain and Canada. In addition to her parental and geographic diversity, Enahoro, has pursued a wide range of interests, including teaching geography at the the University of London and working in television. At the time this book was published, she was working on a PhD in spatial practice, power and satire in Nigeria’s capital. Her diverse talents are brilliantly employed in this novel and I really hope she writes another one. Soon. In the meantime, someone really needs to make a movie out of this. The part of over-the-top Barbara is completely made for Toni Collette, and Julia Roberts would have a blast as the evil corporate sister.