Monday, January 11, 2016

Fishbowl by Bradley Somer

Warm-hearted. Funny. Interconnected lives.

Assorted characters in Bradley Somer's novel Fishbowl include:

  • homeschooled Herman (who passes out whenever he's under stress)
  • stoic Jimenez (who is not so good at elevator repair)
  • evil seductress Faye (experiences panties from heaven)
  • pregnant Petunia Delilah (her baby is due any minute)
  • Claire the shut-in (an agoraphobic with the perfect quiche recipe)
  • secretive Garth (who brings home a very special package)
  • the villain Connor (a lothario who has ensnared our heroine)
  • our heroine Katie

"Katie's sure there are other people in the world with her ability to fall in love. She sees her affliction as a good thing and refuses to become jaded by her many rejections. Her belief is that love doesn't make one weak; it does the opposite. She thinks that falling in love is her superpower. It makes her strong."

A goldfish named Ian leaps from his bowl on the 27th floor of the Seville and glimpses human lives in the apartments as he descends.

"Ian is a bon vivant [...]. He's always been happy as a goldfish. It doesn't dawn on him that, with the passing of another twenty-five floors, unless something drastically unpredictable and miraculous happens, he'll meet the pavement at considerable speed."

Miracles do happen. Bravery can overcome loneliness. Insight can pierce selfishness. There is birth and also death. People are changed. Queer folk find happiness. The action in the entire story spans a mere 30 minutes; nearly enough time to bake a quiche. The ending is upbeat and the whole experience is lots of fun.

I love that the book is designed with a drawing of a goldfish in the margin of each right-hand page. Ruffle the pages like a flipbook and you can watch the fish descend. This trick will give you an idea about what happens to Ian, but not how it happens.


It's odd that I've recently read and heard about a couple of other stories that take place during the time that a body falls. "Robin" by David Whitton (originally published in Taddle Creek) is in the voice of a young woman with some regrets about lemon gin and her spring break trip to Daytona beach. The story was day 19 of the 2015 Short Story Advent Calendar. On the Guardian Books podcast, Philip Hensher praised Malachi Whitaker (pseudonym for Marjorie Whitaker) and mentioned one she wrote that was about the events that take place between the time a retired grocer falls out of a fifth-floor window and his death on impact.

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