Review: The Gum Thief by Douglas Coupland

The Gum Thief: A Novel The Gum Thief: A Novel by Douglas Coupland

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The last Douglas Coupland book I read was Jpod, which I enjoyed tremendously because it was very funny. Coupland's next book after this is The Gum Thief.

The Gum Thief is built upon missives as the narrative, like those 16th or 17th century novels. Which is a little odd, or old-fashioned, for a novel these days, with the internet and emails. Moreover, all the characters almost never email,though the few times they did these never get the light of day for the readers, only mentioned inside their paper letters. They write their narratives onto diaries, and in the later portions of the book, they even FedEx their letters to each other, across countries.

All the characters are mainly losers in life. Roger Thorpe is being divorced from wife Joan. They both lost their son Brendan in an accident, and their relationship went downhill as a consequence. Roger quit his job because he didn't want his colleagues to pity him. He moves to a new city and a new job where nobody would know him and his past. Ergo, Staples, a huge outlet like Carrefour, but which only sells stationery, printer peripherals and the like. Which is perfect for him: he doesn't make friends, and anyway his colleagues think he's weird.

Taking about weird, one of these people is Bethany. She likes working in Staples because the management doesn't hassle her for wearing Goth-like makeup and get-up to work. She accidentally reads Roger's diary, and then his novel-in-progress, Glove Pond. Throughout the book, we readers also get to read chapters from it.

Bethany gets wooed by a good-looking colleague, Kyle, with whom she goes to London, and who later dumps her for a Cockney-speaking English girl. She comes back home and does a tujavascript:void(0)rnaround, abandoning her Goth look, and starts going to the gym. This cannot last, as she tries to kill herself.

Between Bethany and Roger is Bethany's mother DeeDee, another loser, with abusive husbands. She lays science books around her condo to lure Bethany into being interested in going to college. She's willing even to sell her place to finance her education.

A novel like The Gum Thief, about sad losers, can be very readable and keep you laughing for hours, just as Jpod did.

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