Eating the Cheshire Cat
by Helen Ellis
Description via Goodreads
When the firemen sifted through the remains, they would discover Nicole, as her mother suspected. In her embrace would be Sarina and what had happened would be clear. It was murder/suicide. Death by obsession. No further questions asked (287)
::sigh:: When I got this book I was very curious about it because of the cover. Why could that poor, little goldfish be in that blender? For human consumption? Yuck--I had to read it...also on the front cover of my copy it says 'Darkly Funny Gothic Novel'. What I somehow missed is what's written directly under it -- 'Deliciously Catty'. And that's where this book makes it error, or maybe where I made my error in picking this book.While there are some dashes of morbid, gross and dark humor (all things I love) it's overwhelmed by the cattiness and superficial musings of it's characters. Now in defense of this book, I don't have that much experience with Contemporary Southern Gothic fiction...maybe this whole obsession with making Homecoming court at the State University is a big deal and I'm culturally insensitive to it. But if that's not the case, then I'm fine with saying that the best part of this book is the cover.
The story focuses on three characters: Sarina Summers, an oversexed, disgustingly spoiled, attention whore. Nicole Hicks, girl with all the foundations of an axe-murderer and also obsessed with Sarina. And then there's Bitty Jack Carlson; summer camp outcast, and in my opinion the most normal and bearable character. The thing is, I know and enjoy the fact that these characters are supposed to be twisted and exaggerated but it's (1) their roles in the plot and (2) the climax of the plot that's the problem.We follow them from awkward middle school age to end of college age and it seems the priority for each of these characters is revenge and/or redemption through relationships with men. And this irks me...
As I mentioned earlier, there are moments of dark humor: Nicole's shock when she walks in on her brother's alone time, the fact that Bitty Jack's summer boyfriend is star-attraction in a traveling freak show, or the fact that a young Sarina is plagued by a hereditary condition like curved pinkie fingers. The good thing about this novel is it's paced well...very quick. Not too much dwelling on any particular moment of their lives for too long. I guess I should mention that the narrative is supposed to be like a page or chapter in Alice's Adventure in Wonderland. Maybe Bitty Jack is Alice, Sarina is the Red Queen, Nicole is every other cooky character, and the Alabama social scene is Wonderland...not sure because the connection is weak!
I remember at one point thinking this was a Southern Gothic version of Legally Blonde without the law school shenanigans. I still think that's an accurate summary.
Eating the Cheshire Cat