In Cooperative Village, novelist and playwright Frances Madeson follows an eccentric character of the same name who lives in a cooperative apartment complex in New York City with scores of elderly Jews, where shiva notices populate the area by the elevators. Frances' out-of-this world story begins when she finds the body of her elderly neighbor, Mrs. Plotsky, on the floor of the laundry room. Rather than call the authorities, she throws Mrs. Plotsky in the wash to freshen up her decomposing body.
Frances already is a little unstable dealing with a recent job termination, but her life really goes downhill after the laundry room incident. Mrs. Plotsky's son wants nothing to do with his mother's body, and Frances becomes the victim of library card identity theft when she uses her library card to borrow a luggage cart from the front desk to transport Mrs. Plotsky's body upstairs. Frances must plan the shiva for Mrs. Plotsky, visit her shrink, and plan for the possibility of being shipped off to Guantanamo Bay if the feds request her library records.
In Cooperative Village, Madeson pokes fun at death, apartment living, Jewish customs, the elderly, mental health professionals, and the Patriot Act, among other things. The book is fast-paced and funny, keeping my attention throughout and growing more ridiculous with every scene. My favorite part of the book involves Frances taking the dead Mrs. Plotsky to the library because she needs to find out about the overdue notices on her library card and the body can't be left alone. Frances pushes Mrs. Plotsky down the street on the luggage cart, and none of the cooperators who watch her leave the property are concerned about the dead body. They are upset about the luggage cart being taken off the property, and the librarian, also a cooperator, wants the cart cleaned and returned in time for him to bring up his groceries that evening.
Cooperative Village is unlike any other book I've read, making it difficult for me to put my thoughts into words. The fictional Frances was at various points throughout the book annoying, exhausting, and endearing. Madeson is a master of the absurd, but even while I laughed, I saw that she was making a point (especially with regard to the government getting out of hand with post-9/11 protections). To enjoy Cooperative Village, you need an open mind and a fondness for dark, sometimes irreverent humor. I can see how some readers might be offended or confused, but I thought it was hilarious and recommend the book if you want to try something different.
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Disclosure: I received a free copy of Cooperative Village from the author for review purposes.