Review - THE POOR MAN'S GUIDE TO SUICIDE, Andrew Armacost

Review Written By
Karen Chisholm

A review book obtained through Netgalley THE POOR MAN'S GUIDE TO SUICIDE was one of those "why not" book choices. The overview describes it as "a powerful, slashing, terrifying, hilarious, explosive, sarcastic, misanthropic and lyrical black comedy about losing your will to live — and possibly getting it back."

Most of which is going to be very subjective based on the reader's own experience as THE POOR MAN'S GUIDE TO SUICIDE is an interesting beast.

Laced with irony and heavy on the sarcasm, the tone of this book needs the reader to get to grips with those aspects right up front. Without that "concept" in your head, or if you're the sort of reader that can't abide that idea, then Wesley Weimer is going to be a tricky undertaking. Told in the first person, without the sarcasm prism, his viewpoint is very self-indulgent and involved, very judgemental, and frequently just plain tacky and offputting. Even with the sarcasm prism firmly in place there are aspects of the inside of this bloke's head that make you want to head straight for a shower... or for your shotgun.

Having said that, there's something that seems fundamentally truthful about this portrayal. Weimer is a man in deep depression, and because of that everybody else is fat, stupid, ugly, unnecessary or at fault. Except for when it's all his fault. Either way, it's not a pleasant concept by any means but somehow it felt honest. Cruel. Judgemental. Misanthropic. Inconsistent. Confrontational. Nasty. And honest.

Partially because of this device and the amount of time you spend deep inside the head of somebody who really does need help, there are points where the story bogs down. You can't avoid the feeling that somebody as self-indulgent as Weimer doesn't really need quite this much airtime. At points, maybe when the sly sense of humour abated a bit, this reader found herself contemplating the shower or gun a little more firmly.

And therein probably lies the other challenge with this book - readers are probably going to find this voice funny, enlightening and revealing, or profoundly annoying and deeply disturbing. Doubt there's going to be a lot of middle ground. Which always makes books like THE POOR MAN'S GUIDE TO SUICIDE an interesting prospect. Albeit one that could lead to a bit of table thumping during discussion.

Year of Publication

Wesley Weimer, a twice-divorced prison guard and failed father of two, realizes that his life has grown lifeless. Child support payments suck him dry and so he’ll never finish that degree. Most of his free time is spent tending to his crippled mother or else writhing through painful visits with his children.

So with Christmas right around the corner, Wesley persuades a prisoner to strangle him for ten thousand dollars—this way, at least his kids can cash in on the life insurance. The only problem is, he doesn’t have ten thousand dollars…

THE POOR MAN’S GUIDE TO SUICIDE is a noir why-done-it that shoves a microscope into the guts of a bleak yet fascinating subculture while managing to throw a spiritual life-ring to a drowning demographic: non-custodial fathers.

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