Review: Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland

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Goodreads Summary:

On a snowy Friday night in 1979, just hours after making love for the first time, Richard’s girlfriend, high school senior Karen Ann McNeil, falls into a coma. Nine months later she gives birth to their daughter, Megan. As Karen sleeps through the next seventeen years, Richard and their circle of friends reside in an emotional purgatory, passing through a variety of careers—modeling, film special effects, medicine, demolition—before finally reuniting on a conspiracy-driven super-natural television series. But real life grows as surreal as their TV show as Richard and his friends await Karen’s reawakening . . . and the subsequent apocalypse. 

My Review

Oh how do I begin to explain the depths to which this book disappointed me? Girlfriend in a Coma took what was a beautifully unique premise and pummeled it into smithereens. The beginning of the novel grabbed my attention immediately. The first chapter is literally told by a ghost overlooking an apocalyptic world! Awesome right? NO.

The story primarily focuses around the lives of 6 friends who grew up in the 70s and do much less with their lives than they intended for themselves. The story changes perspectives as time goes on. Actually the first 100 pages (which was almost half the book) felt like a timeline was being given rather than a story being told. I never got to appreciate any one character because I never felt a connection to one. None of them were very developed and all of them had distasteful attributes.

Obviously the book is titled Girlfriend in a Coma for a reason, but honestly, Karen’s (the girlfriend) coma was never truly explained and was altogether pointless to the novel. In fact the plot was entirely recycled by the end of the book. Here we have the main characters who are the center of the story, they survive this huge pandemic and then poof, some crazy half-ass “higher purpose” gets thrown in to somehow represent a theme for the novel, and suddenly the plot throws the characters right back to where they started, only now they have new meaning to their lives somehow. So many questions were never answered and I was left utterly baffled by what I had just read. It was like reading two separate genres of stories in one. On the one hand we have these modern day characters in a realistic fiction setting and on the other we have randomly thrown in supernatural elements that really don’t seem to fit into the content easily and are never properly explained.

I understand that Coupland was trying to give the message of making the world a better place by taking a stand and making a change, but I just feel that he could have reached that overall conclusion in a more simple and much less confusing way. I finished this book with more questions than I began with. Girlfriend in a Coma had a lot of potential to be something extraordinary but it just fell short of being an enjoyable story.

Maybe you read it and made more sense of it then I could…

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