The Love Monster is another Vehicule Press release under Esplanade Books, their fiction imprint. I’ve already praised this publisher for their cover design so, naturally, I really liked their choice for the cover: the cute stitched font across an illustrated sock puppet. Simple, strange and memorable. And then there is the copy, which promises something amazing: “dope-smoking senior citizens, religious fanatics, a good lawyer, and a talking turtle” as well as “a love-sick alien speaking in the voice of Donald Sutherland”.
The Love Monster does not disappoint. Protagonist Margaret H. Atwood (not who you think!) is suffering from a mid-life turning point after a divorce from her cheating husband. She has her old meticulous job as an editor for a insurance company, a new apartment and a poor attitude. Luckily, she has a guardian alien with an affinity for human life. Unbeknownst to her, he watches and documents her progress and missteps with his celestial crew. They cheer her on when she succeeds in finally getting a haircut and feel dismayed when she resigns to having cereal for dinner.
Besides alien fixation, author Missy Marston also dips into the lives of the people surrounding Margaret, like her mother, father, boss, coworker and ex-husband. She delicately prods into their innermost thoughts, ideas, and secrets desires. Like with Margaret, we learn their histories and intentions and these additions wonderfully compliment Margaret’s story. In one chapter, Marston introduces the “kernel of sadness”, a source of regret or insecurity that everyone carries around with them and cannot shake off. She describes the kernels in each of her characters, which tends to represent a quintessential part of who they are. Through this, we come to understand them almost completely and that is what makes The Love Monster so enjoyable. It is a recognizable journey through all kinds of sadness, discomfort and monotony that plague human existence. And yet, it displays these moment with a delightfully offbeat sensibility. How does one begin to navigate a life that’s been broken apart by something completely out of your hands? The Love Monster is the resilient little spirit that nudges you along through all kinds of emotional brutality into something worthwhile in the end. There were times when I was cringing with embarrassment for Margaret or giggling at her tactless moments. But she is such a awkward kind of heroine, you can’t help but root for her all the way.
Vehicule Press, 2012
Jacket Design by David Drummond