Not the First Bad Book ever written

Courtesy of thefirstbadman.com

Courtesy of thefirstbadman.com

Rebecca Dominguez, Staff Writer

Strange and captivating, Miranda July’s novel “The First Bad Man,” tells the story of Cheryl, a neurotic and slightly crazed woman who has an odd obsession with a board member at work. She is convinced that she sees the soul of a child she deemed as hers when she was nine, in other people’s children. Cheryl’s life is thrown off balance when her boss’ volatile daughter Clee comes to live with her.

“The First Bad Man” is by no means a “must read,” but once started it’s hard to put down just from the sheer peculiarity of the story. Almost every character is fatally flawed by design and there is no explanation offered as to why. Readers are just expected to note these oddities and move forward.

The two main characters, Cheryl and Clee, with some unspoken agreement, seem to enter into strange relationships with one another with almost no transition, moving from enemies and physical fights to a maternal relationship, to dating, to co-parents and then to no relationship whatsoever.

Not only was the relationship between the two characters confusing, but there is also the constant unsettling thoughts of the main character, Cheryl. From her creepy sexual fantasies to her wild imaginings that she is able to mentally converse with babies, it’s difficult sifting through Cheryl’s internal narrative.

The story’s purpose is completely unclear for the majority of the book. With every new relationship discovered between the two main characters I found myself more and more confused.

Despite its bizarreness, “The First Bad Man” is addictive. Once through the first few chapters, stopping is not an option if you want any kind of explanation for the questions the characters’ interactions raise, but there is a large measure of disappointment coming the reader’s way. None of those questions are going to be answered.

The ending was satisfying in a superficial way, namely every audience loves a happy ending. But after I turned the last page I was left with one overwhelming question: What?

“The First Bad Man” is not an earth-shattering book that would lead to any revelations but if you have a few hours to kill it’s an interesting read. I would give it three out of five stars.