Kathleen Molloy participated in the 1st three editions of my Canadian Book Challenge. She donated her book as a prize. She promoted the challenge on her blog sometimes with more enthusiasm than I. So it gives me no pleasure at all to write a poor review of her book.
Alas, I did not enjoy Dining With Death. Zophia Žvirgzdas, while far from your typical senior citizen, has one thing in common with the elderly: time is short for her and her friends. Fortunately, Death or at least, one particular angel of death named Dewalt Brody, is recruiting Zophia's help in making their passing easier. People should die doing what they love.
It's certainly a premise I can get behind. I think, for me, it will be an odd, depressing time. I can remember when Debbie and I got married, so many of our peers were also getting married. Then we had kids just about the same time our peers were also having kids. It's not the same stages for everyone. Plenty have thrown divorce into the mix. But the one consistent stage at the end is death. But I like dark comedy and if Molloy can manage to squeeze some humour out of it, I'm game.
The problem is she tries to squeeze humour out of everything. There's satire, but with far too many targets to keep track. And there's silliness, which is tolerable in smaller doses. But most humour falls somewhere in between. A little more focus would have helped. Throwing silly names on certain characters, such as Kermit van Tootalot? Totally unnecessary. As it was, the over-abundant humour distracted from both the plot and character development.
Adding to the confusion is the third-person subjective omniscient approach. Zophia is clearly meant to be the central character, yet whenever someone else enters a room, the reader may or may not find themselves switching into someone else's perspective with every paragraph switch. I sometimes had to reread a whole page to figure out who was thinking what. Again, it needed more focus.
But the book wasn't without any merit. Those into Canadian pop-culture will certainly delight in the appearances of such notables as Pamela Anderson, Mark Tewksbury, Gordon Pinselt, Sheila Copps, and more... sort of. It's Dewalt who appears as living Canadian celebrities, but never tends to get them quite right. Pamela Anderson, for instance, wears fur, Mark Tewksbury has a hairy chest, and he creates a hybrid of Cathy Jones (22 Minutes) and Colleen Jones (weather woman/ curling skip). Plus Tim Hortons, Canadian Tire, and plenty other Canadian icons get shout outs. Americans would be at a lost with this book. Apparently so would much of French Canada, as Molloy also commissioned a French translation that also alters the pop-culture references to appeal more to Quebecois. Admirable.