Bed by David Whitehouse

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David Whitehouse

A Book Review by Julie Kelley

 What do you think of when you hear the title of this book?  Because what this book ultimately is about is something entirely different from what you expect.  Malcolm “Mal” Ede is an odd, eccentric child.  His younger brother, from whose viewpoint this book is told, is relatively bland and normal, and he completely fades into the background of the vortex that surrounds his peculiar brother.  “What were you doing out in the rain?” I whispered.  “Seeing how wet I could get,” Mal replied.  Mal’s logic is essentially undeniable, and yet it goes against the grain of what we as polite society see as fitting.  We don’t stand in the rain on purpose; you could catch a cold, or get wet, or get struck by lightning.

Mal is the attractive, spell binding sibling.  His brother, on the other hand, is quiet, non-descript, and flies under the radar.  He isn’t dashingly handsome.  He isn’t outspoken.  He isn’t wise.  He has no sense of adventure.  He is, however, the voice that leads us through the lives of himself and his family.  Our story teller tries to function as a normal person, despite the fact that he is always recognized and otherwise known as ‘Mal’s brother.’   He is so non-descript, you will never even know his name.

At age 25, Mal goes to bed; and he never gets out of bed again.  Mal reasons that he is making a stand against the world and the way things work in the world.  Mal’s mother enables Mal’s choice and Mal’s stoic father goes along for the ride.  Our storyteller is an observer and victim of the process of Mal’s growth. Because grow is what happens to Mal, who eats more and more and never gets out of bed.   ‘The lack of fresh air has turned his face into a miserly wallet for dirt and sweat and grease.’  Publicity ensues as Mal eventually becomes the fattest man in the world.  His brother feels a sense of helplessness, along with acute embarrassment and yet he continues to remain in awe of his older brother.  He also feels a sense of competitiveness, but lacks the confidence in himself to become a contender for the attention received by Mal.

What makes the book even more interesting is that both brothers have fallen for the same girl and this childhood crush on the part of the story teller carries into adulthood.  His innocence beholds you to him.  As the reader, there is an inevitable path expected, and yet the book bounces here and there into some quite surprising scenarios that still come out making sense.

Do you want to be entertained?  If so, this book is definitely a compelling if completely different read.  Our lives, perhaps, are more normal than we realize and because of that normalcy, more enjoyable.  This book is a twist between real life and reality TV.  Sometimes you can’t stop staring.

 

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