Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Harper Perennial. Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.
I love black comedy, social commentary, and novels about women's friendships. Throw in a murder or two, and I'm definitely hooked. Trevor Cole's latest novel, Practical Jean, is a little bit of everything stirred up and baked into a delicious dark tale of an artist with practical plan.
Here's the summary:
Jean Vale Horemarsh is content, for the most part, with the small-town life she’s built: a semi-successful career as a ceramics artist, a close collection of women friends (aside from that terrible falling-out with Cheryl years ago), a comfortable marriage with a kind if unextraordinary man. But it is only in watching her mother go through the final devastating stages of cancer that Jean realizes her true calling. No one should have to suffer the indignities of aging and illness like her mother did—and she, Jean Horemarsh, will take it upon herself to give each of her friends one final, perfect moment . . . and then, one by one, kill them.Growing up as the only dreamer in a structured family, young Jean often wondered where her down-to-earth parts were. Now that she has a plan to save her dearest friends from pain and suffering, Jean knows her mother is smiling down from heaven at her reborn practical daughter. If only Jean can figure out who to "save" first.
Of course, female friendships are quite complicated things, and Jean is soon to discover that her plan isn’t as simple as she initially believed it to be.
Once she's worked out the order and started to implement her plan, Jean is careful to make sure each friend has one last beautiful moment so she can die in a state of happiness. Everything starts out easy enough, until her police officer brothers get involved in the case. And then there's a little matter of a friend who actually deserves to get old and arthritic, the one who doesn't die, and the one who simply hasn't had her moment of happiness yet. Oh and don't forget about her philandering husband and her Celine Dion-loving acquaintance.
Jean may be acting out of love for her friends, but as the preface notes: "Here in Kotemee, all anyone can say now, is 'Thank God I was never a good friend of Jean Vale Horemarsh' " (p. 6).
If your book club is looking for a title to please a diverse group of readers ready for a fun discussion, suggest Practical Jean. Great characters, dark humor, and universal themes will guarantee a successful meeting.
Take a look at some other opinions, and don't forget to click on the link for the complete review:
- Rhiannon from Diary of a Bookworm: "Trevor Cole amazed me with his on the ball narration from a woman's perspective and his keen insight into female friendships."
- Shelleyrae from Book'd Out: "Subtly layered and well crafted this novel is an entertaining read."
- James Grainger writing for Quill & Quire: "The large cast of characters gives Cole ample opportunity to exercise his gift for comic portraiture. . . . The sharp dialogue and even sharper character details ensure the novel’s intricately plotted scenes rarely lag."
Harper Perennial is a featured imprint on Beth Fish Reads. For information about the imprint, please read Erica Barmash's welcome note posted here on June 18, 2010. I encourage you to add your reviews of Harper Perennial books to the review link-up page; it's a great way to discover Good Books for Cool People. And don't miss the The Olive Reader, the Harper Perennial blog.