The Full Ridiculous by Mark Lamprell is about a Australian man named Michael O’Dell who is hit by a car while he is out running one afternoon. He survives the accident, and is initially enormously relieved and grateful. Shortly after the accident, however, bad things start happening to him, one after another. His 14 year-old daughter is suspended from school for getting into a fight with another girl. He finds drugs in his son’s bedroom. His literary agent tells him that there is no market for the book he’s writing. As Michael’s misfortunes pile on, he slides deeper into despair, exacerbated by PTSD from the accident. “The good part of my life is over,” he thinks, “and the bad part has begun.”
Sounds like a real downer, I know. But it isn’t! The Full Ridiculous is actually a touching and darkly funny book about family, parenthood and the imperfections of love in middle age. Things eventually turn around for Michael (after a very low nadir), and by the end he finally understands how lucky he is – and was, even before the accident. Lamprell is a funny writer and The Full Ridiculous is full of astute observations about modern, middle class life. The relationships here aren’t perfect, which is the point – if we measure success by perfection, we’re all going to lose.
One of my favorite parts of this book came at the end, when Michael was hanging out with his wife. They went to the nursery to buy a bunch of vegetable plants, and spent time together planting them in their yard. In a perfect world, the plants would have thrived and they would have had a romantic, life-affirming moment together in the garden. In reality, the plants died a few weeks later because no one watered them before going on vacation, and a playful garden mud-fight ended when his wife got dirt under her contact lens and had to go inside to wash out her eye. But it was all good. That’s Lamprell’s point – this is how we live and thrive – so enjoy it and be content with it.
The Full Ridiculous was a poignant, funny, enjoyable read, and one that I expect will be memorable. It comes out on May 13, 2014, from Soft Skull Press.
Depressing-o-meter: A surprising 6.5 out of 10.