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BED By David Whitehouse August 24, 2011

Posted by lycan librarian in book reviews, Books and reading.

     This selection was plucked from the  Moonlit Library’s new book shelf because it had such an interesting cover; three bare mattresses spelling out Bed, the book’s title. And thank goodness it caught my eye — this novel blew me away! From the first sentence to the very last, I was totally entranced with this story of Mal, a young man who couldn’t make sense of life, went to bed on his twenty-fifth birthday and never again got up . The novel follows not just him, but his family as they sit bedside for twenty years and watch him explode into a massive mound of flesh. The POV of the book is Mal’s younger brother and  his voice makes you laugh out loud even as it wrenches and tears your heart into tiny pieces. The brother is never given a name in the book. He’s Malcolm Ede’s brother. The same seems to be true of his life as he is merely there while his family, his entire life, revolves around Mal. The author says it best, “And Mal grew bigger and wider and rounder and heavier. Like a colony of ants, we worked and lived and fed around him, pretending that everything was normal, which in the strangest of ways, it was.”  The story, in places, goes back to the boys’ childhood when Mal was an odd kid who went suddenly out of control at the most inopportune  times, and always refused to keep on  his clothes. These years alternate with the present and the nearly present, from the fateful birthday, and then up to twenty years beyond when the forty-five and forty-three year old brothers are both still living at home with their solitary father who hides in the attic and their martyr mother who overfeeds and cares for Mal.  I don’t like to tell too much of a book’s plot, but will reveal that there is some change at the very end.

     Whitehouse’s writing is absolutely beautiful, and the story, although extraordinary, could be true, for there are many morbidly obese individuals who live their days confined to their beds. What Whitehouse manages to do is view, with nonchalance, a situation that most minds can’t even grasp. The younger brother describes how Mal’s skin actually fuses with the bed and he laughs at the reactions of the paramedics who try to gently separate the enormous plane of flesh from the fabric of the mattress.

     I can’t say enough good things about this selection, and my words could not match the power in its pages. All I can say is, get this book, read it, and tell everyone you know about it. This pathetic family will make most others seem very normal. I thoroughly enjoyed it from cover to cover, and I can’t wait to see what Whitehouse does next.



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