The moment I saw the synopsis of The Couple, I knew in my bones that Helly Acton wrote this book for me. See, I love books that turn our social norms upside down and examine how life could be instead. Also, I basically spent my twenties single, which drew a lot of pity from friends. They made unsolicited comments, “Are you sure you don’t want to get married?” or “I’m happy to introduce you to someone!”
Technically, Christmas Cakes and Mistletoe Nights is a sequel to Cake Shop in the Garden but it stands quite well on its own. I actually only realised that it’s a sequel due to the summarised info dump during the first couple of chapters — think throwback highlight reel at the start of new seasons of TV shows. Once that’s done and dusted, it’s back to regular writing and storytelling.
Good satire makes you laugh while simultaneously reflecting on the subject matters. Rooted in reality, it makes you wonder how serious these characters are (very) but then on second thought you realise that they’re world views are so black and white, they couldn’t be for real. With that in mind, Borowitz used satire very effectively in Family and Other Catastrophes. Emily was so neurotic but with the kind of mother she had, it kind of made sense. Her sister Lauren, was fully committed to feminist social activism, in stark contrast to their brother, Jason, who was a desperate divorcé and quite the sexist.
If you could live for hundreds of years, if not, forever, would you want to? In Suicide Club, those who deserve it are given immortality. In exchange, they have to take good care of their health — eat well, exercise and all that jazz. What I liked about this premise was that it plays on our contemporary obsession with health and wellness. Food diet movements abound from “clean eating” to keto to paleo, claiming to detox, strengthen the immune system, etc. Rachel Heng pushed these ideal to the extreme in her futuristic science fiction novel set in New York City.