BOOK REVIEW | The First Bad Man by Miranda July


4/5 stars

From the publisher:
Here is Cheryl, a tightly-wound, vulnerable woman who lives alone, with a perpetual lump in her throat. She is haunted by a baby boy she met when she was six, who sometimes recurs as other people’s babies. Cheryl is also obsessed with Phillip, a philandering board member at the women’s self-defense nonprofit where she works. She believes they’ve been making love for many lifetimes, though they have yet to consummate in this one.

When Cheryl’s bosses ask if their twenty-one-year-old daughter, Clee, can move into her house for a little while, Cheryl’s eccentrically ordered world explodes. And yet it is Clee—the selfish, cruel blond bombshell—who bullies Cheryl into reality and, unexpectedly, provides her the love of a lifetime.

My thoughts:
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?

Miranda July, you had me from hello.

In her intricately plotted debut, July takes the reader on a twisty ride that cumulates in a place we never see coming. She examines uncomfortable realities and taboo topics with a smoothness that will at times have you both cringing and laughing out loud. Suddenly, before you realize it’s happening, you’ll be rooting for love in the most unexpected of places.

Cheryl’s life is outwardly simple, but internally complicated. As a single woman in her 40’s, she’s developed quirky habits and lives life by routine. She craves after a man named Phillip, and has her uncomfortably comfortable life interrupted when she agrees to house her boss’ 20 year old daughter, Clee. After a startling admission from Phillip, you will wonder where this is all heading. Rest assured, July will guide you through the rocky terrain.

The First Bad Man is a book that will resonate most with internal types. Over-analyzers, this one’s for you. I’ve often heard this book described as “bizarre”, but it felt like business as usual for me – I can completely imagine a life in which I only have 1 plate and cup and set of cutlery for simplicity, but I have a family which helps to stave off strange habits from habituating. July also delivers some truly touching moments – love and tenderness that round the story out perfectly. Lauren Groff put it best on her cover blurb: this book is “painfully alive”.