Mini Non-Spoiler Synopsis:
Nick is a conflicted and slightly damaged person; although a good guy he has a past linked to alcohol abuse. With a number of colorful friends and family members, Nick sees his life and his relationships as a series of lists; indeed he thinks in lists. As he moves awkwardly through his difficulties, self doubt, and hilarious quirkiness, we see the “horror” of his insecurities through these lists. While he is connecting with family and friends he comes to realize through a series of related events that he has been cursed. A few of his friends share this curse too, so naturally drama, psychological distress, and some paranormal horror and dark humor ensues.
(This short novel was nominated for the Bram Stoker 2009 Award.)
This is not your typical horror book, since there is only a slight amount of gore. The true horror in Cursed is actually the internal struggle within the main character’s mind and in his day to day life. Reading about it is bearably funny because of the subtle and quirky humor around Nick’s hilarious and relatable lists. Be aware that it is an uncomfortable humor which many of us may relate to, though some will not. It has a dry, offbeat, almost Monty Python-esque feel, only it’s very American rather than British. I was giggling while reading this novel, so John (my husband) kept asking me what was so funny. I read him a few bits, and he agreed that the book sounded extremely quirky. Perhaps that is the connection to the Bizarro fiction, which, after reading this I am beginning to define. I would say that Cursed is unusual, as well as complex and layered.
Looking for a literary reference, I see a parallel between Nick and Gregor, the main character from The Metamorphosis (title links to recent review). Both characters are caught within some difficult life circumstances mostly beyond their control, yet remain reflective and sensitive almost to a fault. Another example of a connection is where The Metamorphosis has a sort of periodic angst; it has an emotional discord which can only truly be defined within the early 1900’s. Cursed too is periodic but has a contemporary feel. Reading Cursed was like reading a book by a friend whose experiences are based during the present day, and whose guilt, self doubt, abandonment issues, and alcohol abuse all bunched up into a story that could only be set recently.
I do think that the book could be paralleled and contrasted with The Metamorphosis more, but will leave that to the scholars. In summary I immensely enjoyed this creative, quirky book. It is thoughtful, original, disturbing, sensitive, and funny and rate it at 4 Stars. It was a needed humor break.