Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Cooperative Village by Frances Madeson

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.

Cooperative Village also was reviewed by:

At Home With Books

If you've also reviewed it, let me know in the comments, and I'll add your link!

Disclosure:  I received a free copy of Cooperative Village from the author for review purposes.


Susan Helene Gottfried said...

I'm going to bring this up to my book club. I am in need of something not Holocaust-related (would you believe they bullied me into another one??).

Sandy Nawrot said...

I think Frances would get along really well with Stephanie Plum!

Serena said...

I think this sounds fantastic...can you imagine Frances and Tom Stoppard in the same room...that would be hilarious...Rosencrantz and Gildenstern are Dead anyone!

Darlene said...

This does sound fun. Sometimes that's just what you need is something different to read.

Anonymous said...

This is in my stacks, so I'm glad to see you liked it.

Alyce said...

This was one of those books that I really wanted to like but it just didn't click with me, and I felt bad about that. I think the dark humor was too off-the-wall for my tastes.

Anna said...

Susan: Sorry that you got talked into reading a book you're not up to reading. I know how affected you were by The Lost. Let me know what they think about your suggestion.

Sandy: I haven't read the Stephanie Plum books, so I'll take your word for it. Serena seems to like them, though.

Serena: I'll have to take your word for this one, too, since I'm not familiar with Tom Stoppard. Maybe I need to get out more? LOL

Dar: Exactly!

Bermudaonion: I can't wait to hear what you think about the book!

Alyce: I remember reading your review, and I was a little worried. I can see how people might be turned off by the off-the-wall humor. I tend to enjoy dark humor, but in small doses.

Serena said...

Anna: Rosencrantz and Gildenstern is a hilarious play by Stoppard...and I think it was made into a movie with Gary Oldman. You should check out the coin flipping scene in the movie...hilarious!

Eva @ One Swede Read said...

Ah, the reason to read other people's bookblogs: to find out about books that seem to be perfect for you that you've never heard of! Thank you!!

Oh, and yes, definitely watch the Gary Olman and Tim Roth version of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (it was directed by Tom Stoppard).

Iliana said...

Very interesting... I do like books that are bit out there for me but I have to be in the right mood. I'll have to put this one on my list!

Anna said...

Serena: Thanks for clarifying! Sounds interesting.

Bookoholic: You're welcome! Thanks for stopping by!

Iliana: I agree that you have to be in the mood. If I wasn't in need of some humor, I probably would've felt different about this book. Please let me know your thoughts if you get a chance to read it!

tanabata said...

Haha! This does sound really different and fun!

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

This sounds like a book I'd enjoy. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. GREAT BLOG!

Literary Feline said...

You always read the most interesting books, Anna. This sounds like something I would like. Thanks for the great review.

Anna said...

Tanabata: It sure was!

Diane: Thanks!

Literary Feline: I try. ;) Hope you get a chance to read it.