In her debut novel, Ottawa author and poet Missy Marston is both fearless and quirky in her approach to some of the more difficult aspects of being human.
Thirty-five-year-old Margaret H. Atwood sees no humour in sharing her name with a literary great. She has few friends and a repetitive and monotonous job as an editor at an insurance company. Her husband, who has cheated on her for years, has just left her for another woman. Thus begins a journey that spirals from bitter loneliness through the surreal before circling back to a world of hope, friendship, family, and love.
The Love Monster contains far more than Margaret’s story. Marston cleverly guides the reader through the interweaving lives of the characters who surround her protagonist, from her controlling, pot-smoking mother to her young, joyously religious co-worker, Marie – who has secrets of her own – to Margaret’s cheating husband. And, of course, there is the leader of the aliens, who visits Margaret nightly, and harbours a deep longing for humanity of his own.
“Everyone Carries a Kernel of Sadness” is the title of one of the novel’s sections, but it is also a truism that links all of Marston’s characters and highlights their humanity (yes, even the alien’s). That quality is at the core of The Love Monster, and it is what connects the reader to the book. There is hope, humour, and wry commentary on how we perceive the world and each other, but deeply buried under it all is that kernel of sadness, and Marston isn’t afraid to excavate it. In doing so, she creates characters that resonate and actively engage the reader in the search for hope and redemption.