I loved this book. Like, actually. It’s amazing. Everybody should read it then buy another copy to give to someone they love. I have a feeling that writing a balanced review of this one will be difficult because it’s just too awesome. It’s also only 106 pages long so even if you don’t like reading you can still read it. This is a love story without the schmaltz and clichés which normally send me running – I’ve heard this story described as ‘cute’ which is an adjective which I also try to avoid but it would be more accurate to call it ‘quirky’ – it’s very original and is a very warm-hearted story.
Tom is an ordinary guy (ordinary and awesome) who has recently married The Perfectionist, unfortunately at their wedding she was hypnotised by her evil ex The Hypno into believing that Tom is invisible and inaudible. After six months of heartbreak, The Perfectionist is convinced that Tom has abandoned her and is moving to Vancouver where she will use her superpower to make her life perfect again. The story follows Tom as he sits on the plane to Vancouver beside his wife, desperately trying to convince her that he is really there. Through flashbacks, we come to see how the whole situation came about and what Tom can do to save his wife.
This is not a science fiction story, it is closer to a fairy tale. It explains that there are 249 superheroes in the Toronto area but “None of them have secret identities. Very few of them wear costumes“. Tom moved to Toronto and became friends with The Amphibian while cleaning a pool and since all of The Amphibian’s friends were superheroes, now all of Tom’s friends are superheroes too. The different superheroes are introduced and they are immediately recognisable if not exactly inspiring of jealousy – there are those who spent years struggling with their superpower, such as Brutally Honest, then there’s The Copycat (who has the ability to mimic anybody’s personal style and to do it better than them) then the doomed Someday, Tom’s ex-girlfriend who gradually shrinks and disappears because she only ever planned to do things ‘someday’. Everybody can find somebody they know amongst these superheroes and for a few nights after I read it, I tried to think of superpowers that fit my nearest and dearest.
Where the book really hits its strength though is its examination of relationships. In trying to make his wife see him, Tom is really just working through a more extreme version of what many of us have dealt with; unrequited love. Of course, Tom’s is more painful because he knows that The Perfectionist definitely does love him and is suffering in his ‘absence’. It’s funny because although this story is little more than a romantic allegory and definitely could get ridiculously cheesy, it is saved by the quality of the writing. For example, there is the story of Tom and The Perfectionist’s first night together when the Perfectionist leads Tom to a room and presents him with two boxes, one with Friend on it and the other with Lover. He has to pick one box to get in to. “Tom picked the one marked friend and placed it into the other. Then he picked up The Perfectionist and put her inside the boxes. He climbed in with her. In the morning there wasn’t much left of either of the boxes“. Tom may have been the ordinary guy on the street but his superpower is Love.
This is one of those books, like 1066 and All That which can be quoted and quoted and it’s all brilliant. With it being so short though, I don’t like to spoilt it by going through them all here, suffice it to say that Kaufman makes excellent use of every word and indeed I will definitely be reading it again. All My Friends are Superheroes is about who we are as human beings and how our personality traits change our lives. As Kaufman points out, if you can already identify your main trait, you probably are a superhero already – we are in a constant battle against ourselves but this is a book about really trying even when the odds are stacked against us and it is Beautiful.
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Published by Coach House Books on October 19th 1999
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