Sunday, April 13, 2014


In The Full Ridiculous, Mark Lamprell has written a unique exploration of what it means to be alive, and what it means to live. And what most of us forget is really important about living.

The title is inspired by a quote from Zorba the Greek, a book that once inspired Lamprell's protagonist: "Am I not a man? And is a man not stupid? I'm a man, so I married. Wife, children, house, everything. The full catastrophe." And so it is with Michael O'Dell. A man with wife, children, house, everything... on the verge of a massive catastrophe. Or, more appropriately, a massive series of catastrophes. We start off big, with O'Dell being launched over the hood of a car. From hospital to home to hell. From there, things quickly unravel, with O'Dell desperately trying to hang on to the few threads that remain.

The Full Ridiculous is a complicated book. Simple on the surface, it would be easy to simply treat it as a farcical romp through the modern day challenges of hanging on to your job, your spouse, your house, your kids and your sanity. And, predictably, there is a time in the book where it would appear that Michael O'Dell is on the verge of losing all of them. But this isn't a predictable book. And while it ends well, the path to the finish line is anything but straight and sure. Lamprell explores profound issues about identity, relationships, love and loss, in a way that is sympathetic and sure-footed.

For me, I knew from the outset that this was going to be a difficult book to read, but a rewarding one. For anyone that has struggled with identity, purpose and meaning, the themes and events in The Full Ridiculous cut a little too close to the bone. Nonetheless, the book is compassionately written, wryly constructed and both hilarious and humanizing. A curious device is that the book is written (almost) entirely in the second person, intermingling you the reader with O'Dell the protagonist. Within pages, you accept this fact as normal. Right until the point where you realize why. I won't spoil the surprise.

This is a delightful book, that I found virtually impossible to put down. The vast majority of it was consumed in one sitting. It is tightly crafted, tautly honed and touchingly haunting. At the end, it leaves you hoping for a little bit more. Except that, really, it has provided you with just enough.

Mark Mullaly is an avid reader, sometimes writer, enthusiastic motorcyclist and lover of wine (and endeavours to engage in only one of these pursuits at any given time).

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