out of 5
Review by Katie
We have one brief moment on this planet, and we spend most of it sad and alone, wondering if anyone likes us or remembers who we are; or preparing ourselves to meet the day, to put on our professional faces and walk into our work environments and have the gumption to pretend like we know what we're talking about. We are shamelessly nostalgic for past selves, past moments of our lives where we felt so assured that life was an ever-widening tree-lined avenue, and that the avenue led to contentedness, success, happiness, a near-ecstatic sexual and psychic connection with our partner, or at the very least the ability to keep ourselves well supplied with Hamburger Helper. How disappointing that the avenue led only to more life, to more sweaty anticipation of a glorious future that never quite arrives, and even more disappointing: that the avenue, rather than widening, continuously narrows to a point, options falling away, revealing that the feeling of endless choice was only an illusion propped up by the optimism of a past you, that teenage shit-eater, whose essential teenageness (a mixture of scorn and naivete) you now lament with bitter, alcohol-enabled tears. The folly of youth! And the Hamburger Helper only makes it increasingly more difficult to button your pants. After all this misery and regret have been numbed by cable television, there remain only a few short hours of the day in which to attempt to forget ourselves, our growing bodies, the feeble flutter of our uncertainties and fears. This time, we allot to fiction. And the time is so small, so besieged by our nervous social media habit, our emails, our tumblr accounts. It is precious time, it is a small amount of time, and it must be protected! And here I urge you: turn away from this story of the much beleaguered Berrybender clan and their infinitely rape-able party of females. Think not of the upsetting preoccupation of the eldest, the "smart" one, with her growing role of "prairie wife" and her abandonment of books and bookish things for a dim-witted hairy idiot of a man who slaps her on their first "date," thus setting off her growing carnal preoccupation with him, because everyone knows, nothing inflames desire like a good, hard, unasked for slap across the face. Disavow the brutal depiction of Native peoples in this book and pick up a Sherman Alexie book instead. Yes, it's true, everyone in this book is an idiot and isn't it funny how useless the British are? (If you're looking for good satire of the British, why not try Noel Coward or Oscar Wilde?) But no character is an idiot in the book like the women are idiots in this book, and for their trouble, they all get brutally raped or beaten until Mcmurtry can pair them off with the next less brutal man who comes along and says something kind to them. Or they're rewarded for their critical thinking skills with a hairy illiterate frontiersman for a mate! The gifts of the prairie are copious and phallic indeed! Life is too short, too full of misery and sadness and the briefest of joys. Read a good book instead! Don't be like me.