There is a certain joy in seeing all the pieces come together in harmony. It is that feeling I ended up with as I crested the middle of The First Bad Man and the bits started to slowly fall into place. The narrator Cheryl is a middle-aged unmarried working woman who lives alone and day dreams about an older colleague who she has been working with for decades. Into her spic-n-span sunny home enters a sulking and voluptuous teenager who she initially hates. But they soon discover a strangely funny relationship based on the self-defense videos that Cheryl’s firm peddles. When the lazy teenager turns out to be pregnant, what follows is a ride that Cheryl could not have imagined in her million dreams, but one that turns out to smoothly sate all her unfulfilled desires.
Some books are great, but a slog to get through, but others like this one by Miranda July are effortless. From the very opening lines, I was hooked. There is a pleasant self-deprecation in the protagonist and a constant humor that runs through the book keeping it light. The writing is top notch, effused with enormous sensitivity and a great eye for detail. When you finally close the book, you really feel like you lived an year with Cheryl in her sunny California home. I was not surprised to learn that the author is also a filmmaker and a screenwriter. The book is very visual, the experience akin to watching a good afternoon movie by Koreeda. I barely noticed it, but the author had laid all her clever traps from the beginning and in the latter half of the book she expertly reels them all in a super satisfying manner. It is so heartwarming to witness good tides finally getting to the protagonist you are so invested in. The First Bad Man is a well written funny and sunny read that is full of surprises.