All My Friends Are Superheroes @ Iambik.com

Everybody loves the Canadians, right?  Mounties, UN Peacekeepers, Mike Meyers and Kids In the Hall  – all of which goes a long way towards making up for Celine Dion.  Add Alan Kaufman’s name to the “plus” column.  After reading and reviewing The Waterproof Bible I received an offer from Iambik.com to listen to the audio version of his first novel, All My Friends Are Superheroes.  I jumped at the chance.   And enjoyed every moment of the entire 2 hours, 7 minutes and 11 seconds I spent riveted to my iPod.

All Tom’s friends really are superheroes (OK, I know that line is straight from the book jacket – but I can’t top it) including his new wife, The Perfectionist.  Tom, himself, is normal.  But when everyone around you has a super power not having one makes you special by default.

Our hero’s trouble begins on his wedding day.  His new wife’s x-boyfriend hypnotized her into believing that Tom is invisible.  And now, months later, Tom has the space of a plane flight to convince The Perfectionist that he is still there.  That he, in fact, never left her.  But he needs to be quick.  Because once The Perfectionist lands in Vancouver and makes it her new home, she’ll make it perfect… without him.

Andrew Kaufman’s superheroes are snarky and hip and bear a striking resemblance to people you’d meet on the dating circuit of any major city.  The Stress Bunny – who absorbs the stress  of everyone around her like a sponge (and subsequently throws the best parties).  Hypno – who hypnotizes women into believing they’ll have the best sex of their life with him, and then tries to convince them that just because he hypnotized them into believing it was the best sex they ever had, doesn’t mean it’s not true.  There’s some guy whose superpower is to make every morning Sunday morning – which amounts to a lot of time spent in bed and the deterioration of personal hygiene rituals.  The Ear, The Amphibian, T.V. Girl, The Sitcom Kid and dozens more make cameo appearances  – at a party Tom yells out the name “The” as a joke and everyone turns to look.

The descriptions of these unorthodox superheroes are the most entertaining segments, and make up about 1/3, of the novel.  They add a kind of twisted humor to what could have otherwise easily become a sappy love story.  Kaufman’s novel reminds me of a game I played with friends in college:  What would your superpower be?  And we’re not talking about x-ray vision or being able to fly.  My one friend had fingers of ice.  A girl I knew apparently had a sharp pointy bump in the back of her head that could inflict pain if she leaned her head in just so.  One guy could beat the crane machine at the arcade (you know, the one where you try to pick up stuffed animals with a 3-pronged claw).   Fortunately for the reader, Andrew Kaufman is a lot better at this game than we were.

As for format:  I enjoyed reading The Waterproof Bible and  I’m sure I would have enjoyed reading All My Friends Are Superheroes.  But I’m ultimately glad that I listened to the audiobook version.  Gordan Mackenzie’s narration is fabulous! No exaggeration.  He reads as if this novel was written just for him – with all the quirkiness of characterization and dry humor that it deserves.  So if you’re a comic book geek or a fan of Wes Anderson films, or just in need of a light, entertaining read to relax with over the holidays; I highly recommend you check this one out.

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The WaterProof Bible by Andrew Kaufman (ARC)

Andrew Kaufman writes strange and wonderful books.  His first novel, All My Friends Are Superheroes, features an invisible hero.  To save his marriage he must convince his super-heroine wife that he is still there, sitting next to her on a flight to Vancouver.  And he has to do it before the plane lands.  That book has become something of a cult hit, and this latest novel is equally inventive.  The Waterproof Bible is another charming love story that manages to be funny, amusing and touching in all the right places.  What the plot might lack in suspense and action, it more than makes up for with a group of characters who shine.

Rebecca projects her emotions.  Her feelings are an open book to those around her, and the stronger they are the farther they travel.  At a young age she discovered that she can contain these emotions within everyday objects.  The result is E-Z Self Storage Unit #207, where her entire emotional life is organized inside of hundreds of clearly labeled cardboard boxes.

Lewis is Rebecca’s brother-in-law.  His wife Lisa (Rebecca’s sister) has just died.  Wrapped in grief he impulsively decides not to attend Lisa’s funeral, hops on a plane and checks into a hotel in Winnepeg, Canada.  There he meets a strange, and strangely horrible, woman who claims to be God.  And he sorta’ believes her.

Aby lives under water.  She’s green, has gills, and belongs to an amphibious species closely related to humans.  She can breath both on land and underwater, but as a devout Aquatic she has never left the ocean.  Until now.  Her mother chose an “unwatered” life when Aby was a small child.  But to die with air in your lungs is a sin in the Aquatic faith – and so Aby is breathing air, has stolen a white Honda Civic and is headed for Morris, Manitoba in order to save her mother from herself.

Stewart is Rebecca’s ex.  He’s building a boat in the middle of the Canadian prairie.  He doesn’t really know why.  Neither do we.

All these individual journeys are interconnected, steadily moving towards one huge moment of redemption and clarity.

There is a quality to The Waterproof Bible that reminds me of fairy tales I read when I was younger.  Like the stories in Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books, the plot is whimsical without being cloying. Entertaining while barely raising the reader’s heart rate (a talent Kaufman shares with the author Alexander McCall Smith).  Add to the mix the fact that there is no overt lesson or “meaning” to bog things down, and you’re left with a book I believe most readers will quietly enjoy, then pass along to a friend.

Note:  There is a catch, of course.  There’s always a catch.  If you’re in the U.S. and want a copy of The Waterproof Bible then you’ll have to work a bit harder for it.  Telegram publishes the book in the UK and Random House has it in Canada. But, hard as I searched, I couldn’t find a publisher in the states.  If someone knows of one that I missed, please let me know.

Publisher: Telegram, London (2010)
ISBN: 978 1 84659 086 3

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