Friday, November 21, 2014

All My Friends Are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman

This book is just truly lovely, and I adored it. It is not the kind of thing that is right for everyone, certainly, but I thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish, and it would easily make the list of books I have read for this blog that I would recommend, without question.

The story is a perfect blend of heartfelt and whimsical. It opens with Tom, our narrator, about to board a plane with his superhero wife, The Perfectionist. Tom is invisible to The Perfectionist, and has been since their wedding, when The Perfectionist was hypnotized by a jealous ex-boyfriend into believing that he (Tom) was invisible. Tom has until the wheels of the plane touch down in Vancouver to convince The Perfectionist that she can see him - if he can't, then she will start a new life and leave him behind forever.

The story is told mainly in flashbacks, around the development of Tom and The Perfectionist's relationship, their first date, first kiss, and how Tom found himself with exclusively superhero friends. The superheroes in this book have the kinds of superpowers that are just things some people do - The Perfectionist, for example, is just a perfectionist. Her jealous ex, Hypno, is actually just a very handsome and charismatic person who can only make people do things they are willing to do anyway. Many of the superpowers are just symptoms of common mental illnesses.

The interpretation I went with was that Tom does not think of himself as particularly distinctive or special, and the way he identifies others is through one defining characteristic. Who hasn't described their partner's friend as "the one who is always projecting" or "the one with the hypnotic eyes" etc. Throughout the book other superheroes are described, and they are all interesting and strange (but also strangely normal). None of the superheroes consider themselves to be villains, but many of them consider someone else to be one.

I loved this slightly strange, magical way of looking at people. I think it works particularly well on the level of Tom coming into a group of friends through his partner. The story's underlying message is, I believe, about relationships - and particularly about what love is to a perfectionist; love that is often messy and never perfect, but which is often the missing ingredient in a perfect day, or life. The last page of what had been, to that point, a light and whimsical read, had me unexpectedly choked up on the streetcar. The story may be disguised in layers of whimsy and magical realism, but it does have something very powerful to say about love and relationships.\

I loved this book. It was a quick, engaging, funny, and unexpectedly moving read. I highly recommend it.

Five CN Towers out of five.

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