I was first introduced to Miranda July last Summer when I read her short story collection No One Belongs Here More Than You (which also happened to be my first book review on this blog), and it got swiftly added to my favourite books list. The First Bad Man is July's first novel, and following on from her short story collection is full of strange and eccentric characters.
I don't want to give too much away, as I think this is the kind of book that you need to go into knowing little about the story. The book follows middle aged and neurotic Cheryl, who lives on her own and has a strict system for everything. She is secretly obsessed with Philip a board member at her work who has a dark secret of his own. Then her bosses ask if their twenty one year old daughter can stay with her and Cheryl's world gets turned upside down.
If you've read any of July's writing before then you know she has no line when it comes to weirdness... this book is certainly strange and if you are easily offended you may find certain parts of this an uncomfortable read. Underneath the quirkiness though there is a hopeful story of love and a message than underneath it all we are all the same. Sure at first some of the characters are completely unrelateable, but the more you get to know them them more sympathetic they become.
July has a skill in creating vulnerable, honest and lonely characters longing for love and she does so perfectly here. Her writing style is beautiful, and although it isn't quite as lyrical as her short story collection it is a pleasure to read. Her discriptions of unrequited love, loneliness, gender fluidity, motherhood, and hiding our true feelings from the world were perfect. This book is also full of dark humour that makes the the stranger stuff not quite so strange.
I gave The First Bad Man four stars, and I'm sure this book will find a place on my favourite books of 2015. If you like books that are very human, but also not afraid to go to weird places then read this immediately!
"If you were wise enough to know that this life would consist mostly of letting go of things you wanted, then why not get good at the letting go, rather than the trying to have?"
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