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Book Reviews

Mommy Daddy Baby

by Greg Kearney

Over the holidays, I left Mommy Daddy Baby sitting on the living room table and encountered, at one time or another, every member of my family reading it. Whatever else can be said about this book, it’s certain that the lurid cover drawing, ominously cute title, and in-your-face prose will seduce just about anybody with an ounce of curiosity in them.

Indeed, extreme curiosities of human nature are what Kearney delivers up in his first book of fiction. In 29 short short stories, the reader is introduced to characters who give new meaning to the word marginal: a mentally challenged office worker who thinks she can smell AIDS on her co-worker; a grandma who reveals to her family that she was once in a cult that forced her to perform grotesque sexual acts; and a very strange lady who defecates on the office bathroom floor. This is not pretty stuff, and Kearney doesn’t try to elevate these people and their situations into soft-focus metaphors. In rapid-fire prose, and in an often jaded, detached narrative voice, he shows us the guts of life.

For pure breadth of material, the flash-fiction format succeeds, but with each story less than three pages long, readers aren’t given much plot or character development. This works when the story reads like a joke with a satisfying punchline, or else the seed of a larger idea. In “Shattered Vagina,” for instance, a woman is friend-stalked by a female co-worker, and after finally agreeing to have dinner with her, finds out she’s completely nuts. This is great dark humour, and leaves the reader chewing on the topic of workplace decorum. Some of the stories, however, read like abandoned sketches, prompting only a “huh, that’s weird” reaction.

At times the sheer number of characters and scenes (sometimes more than three in one story) is so overwhelming that it’s hard to remember what’s going on. This problem might be easily solved by reading the stories one per day, like taking a vitamin. This reviewer recommends only hardened cynics take theirs first thing in the morning.