Thursday, February 19, 2015
Book Review: Jillian
3 Stars - Recommended to fans of litfic where all of the characters are depressed, miserable, and slightly manic
Publisher: Curbside Splendor Publishing
Released: February 2015
Is Jillian this year's most un-feel-good book of the year? Quite possibly. And depending on how you like your literature, that's not necessarily a bad thing.
But fair warning girls, get out the tub of ice cream. Or the tube of cookie dough. Or whatever your comfort food of choice is. Because not only has Halle Butler gone and created herself some of the most depressing, manic, and miserable characters you'll ever meet, she's also somehow managed to pull off this neat trick where her book becomes a mirror that reflects all of your shit back at you, too.
You'll meet Megan. We get to hang out with her quite a lot. She's fresh out of college and hates her dead-end job at the gastroentrologist's office, where she views and files images of diseased colons. Yeah, I know. I'd hate that shit too. (haha, get it? Shit?!) She shares this small office space with Jillian, a super-chipper, super-fake thirty-something single mother who would drive ME up a wall. She's dating Ryan, who drags her out to parties where she has to hang out with people she doesn't like. The only way she can tolerate hanging out with these people is to drink. When she drinks, she says dumb, bitchy shit, and sulks over it the next day. Her best quality? Ranting to Randy every evening about all of the nutty and obnoxious shit her co-worker Jillian does.
You'll get to hang out with Jillian, too. She's an absolute basket case. She's broke as hell but blows money like she's made of it. She can't afford to keep her kid in daycare yet she can rationalize spending seven dollars for a starbucks coffee every morning on her way to work (I'm more of a Dunkin fan, myself but yeah, $15 smackers a weekend on Chai Tea and donuts biatch!). She can't pay the bill for her traffic violation but she goes ahead and adopts a shelter dog, and leans heavily on the good will of her neighbor Elena. She's not living the life she believes she's owed, but it's ok because she's living in a dream world where things will get better. Her best quality? She's a fucking riot when she abuses pain pills.
And because the story is told in close third person, we get to swing back and forth from character to character - cringing as we see how Jillian tends to her son and their dog; feeling embarrassed for Megan as we watch her cry on the floor of the shower. We're privy to Randy's inner most thoughts about Megan and their relationship. We're witness to the way Jillian's neighbor Elena gets revenge on her for all of the weeks Jillian's taken advantage of her. And we shake our heads because we are them. In little ways. In the smallest moments. We have done what they are doing. We have thought what they are thinking. We have hidden from our problems, feigning ignorance and telling ourselves lies until we believe them. We have felt the horrible crushing weight of our own self-hate, and thrown that hate onto others, only for them to throw it right back on us.
While I wasn't a fan of the passive-aggressive ways Megan and Jillian dealt with their issues (I HATE passive-aggressive people!), I did appreciate the message buried beneath all of their bullshit. It's a pretty poignant look at how what we do shapes who we are. We own where we are. We created the situation we have found ourselves in. Whether we act on it or we ignore it, we are the only ones who can do a god-damn thing about it.