Jim and Candy are the unlikely criminal masterminds in this bizarre comedic literature novel hybrid thingamabob by MB Pardy. After running over a dog on his way to get fired, Jim discovers that Candy has, somehow, managed to photocopy an Aussie $20 bill, and it’s taken by the change machine at his new job, the car wash. Not one to resist the temptation (after all, he’s in debt $3000 to the dog’s owner, and he owes on the bills at his cheating girlfriend’s apartment), Jim agrees to step it up. They team up with Choco, the government field agent, in an attempt to loot tens of thousands of dollars in coins from the city.
This book rolls cheerfully on through some of the dreariest of literature pit traps: the I’m-pregnant-and-let’s-break-up, the sleeping-in-the-car, the slowly-losing-lust-for-life-and-having-my-ambition-crushed, and the hating-the-everyday-drudgery-that-is-life. Through a strange narrative style, the author paints an oddly jovial picture of being broke, in debt, jobless, and heading towards hopeless in modern day Australia.
Characters are interesting and fully fleshed out. Jim, Choco, Renee, Renee’s mom, Candy, Emma, and even the bit characters like Jock and Sauvage are compelling, real, and quirky.
The book’s charm is mostly in the bizarre, idiosyncratic quirks and ticks every single character, every single scene, and every single object in the book seems to be packed with. Choco’s car has a faulty window. On character logs into his government job as a field agent by reciting a bank account number backwards. Other characters are contestants into a strange reality show. Jim is forced into a pub to have an awkward discussion with someone he thinks may be the cops, because he forgot to put on flip-flops and the concrete’s too hot. There are so many odd little idiosyncrasies, and so many strange happenstance scenes that the book reminded me of Snatch or Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, without the violence.
Throughout most of this, the book breaks from convention in an interesting way: by showing character emotion extremely minimally. The audience is left to often wonder just what the heck was meant when Jim or Candy said this or that, or how Renee felt when that one scene concluded. This leaves the book full of short, to-the-point sentences, and the reader gets to do some of the work in deducing how to react.
This, combined with the quirky style of events and characters, meant that I was constantly left guessing.
Lastly, this book has quite a lot to say, between the lines, about the situation of the lives, hopes, dreams, and ambitions of young people in Australia, about the operation of bureaucracy in Australian society.
I give this book two enthusiastic thumbs up, though I’m left to wonder what the book cover has to do with the actual novel itself. Regardless, 5 deserving stars.