Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Girlfriend in a Coma

                The world is already starting to end, even if we can’t see it. In 20 years’ time, if we don’t change our ways of polluting the atmosphere, the world will begin to destroy itself with natural means. The arctic permafrost will melt, releasing ancient fossil fuels. Warmer waters will release gasses trapped far below the surface. We can do very little to hold off the inevitable if we can’t change. And if it finally came, how would you act if you were one of the last people on earth. In the story, Girlfriend in a Coma, written by the author Douglas Coupland, Karen, Richard, Pam, Hamilton, Wendy, Jared and Linus all come to experience this after the terrifying plague of sleep; the end of life as we know it. It’s a very philosophical book about the meaning of human lives, and what we strive for; the truth. Their after world is crashing all around them. Everything is dying. They have to make a choice: sacrifice the one who brought them all together again and their normal lives in society to return, or be wiped away on an empty planet.

                In the three parts of this book, the story belongs to a certain person. The first is Richard. After his girlfriend and dear member of the group of friends slips into a coma thanks to an unfortunate dieting pill and vodka, Richard not only realizes that there might have been a strange inevitability, foretold by the girlfriend in a Coma herself, but that he now has the responsibility of becoming a father to her child that is on its way, Megan. “She looked at me and then I was hers. It was that fast,” page 56. Richard’s views change after meeting his daughter in young adulthood, but he still slips into troublesome behaviour because of the sorrow that comes from Karen’s state. As Megan grows up, Richard has some very deep connections with her.  “Megan! Of course she’s not lettuce---nor any other vegetable. Your mother is not a vegetable, Megan,” page 67. Sharing the knowledge of Karen’s comatose state, with Richard bringing Megan to meet her mother at a young age helps the father and daughter bond. However, Richard cannot truly heal, until seventeen years later, Karen wakes up, and it becomes her story.

                By this point, everyone has made a mess of their lives. Although Pam retired from modelling and brought the group together in a career in the special-effects of show-biz, she and Hamilton are druggies, thoroughly unsatisfied with life. Still in love with the long deceased Jared, Wendy’s a workaholic. Linus is spaced out and trying to learn the meaning of life without success. Richard is an alcoholic that barely sees his kid. Megan is a rebellious teen who’s making all the wrong choices. But one night, when all the chess pieces are coincidentally at Karen’s hospital, she wakes up from the coma, fully functioning. It’s a God given, impossible miracle, and everyone expects Karen to be an all-knowing wise epiphany gifted woman. The truth is, she’s still just 17 in her head, and jumping into the new era, unlike all the brainwashed followers, she does not like what she sees. “They talk about their machines as if they possess a charmed, religious quality, as if these machines are supposed to compensate for their owner’s inner failings,” page 143. If you woke from the lax times of the late 70’s to the hard-core, go-go-go 1997. However, those around her are happier than they’ve ever been. The tense happiness doesn’t last long though. After finally accepting an interview for a lot of money, Karen dazes out and predicts the end of the world that is coming soon, from voices she’s not supposed to hear. The ones that she got a peek of and sent her into a coma where she hoped she could escape the future. A plague comes that winter, causing women and men, children and elders, everyone to fall asleep and die. With Karen’s visions, she tells the group her friends who survive; Megan, Richard, Linus, Wendy, Pam, Hamilton; as she views an old woman, “Suddenly, she’s sleepy. She lies down on the deck and closes her eyes and sleeps. And that’s that. She is the last person. The world’s over now. Our time begins,” page 208.

                Then, for the next year, they struggle as a ghost watches. Jared. Their old friend, who died of tuberculosis in high school. A real slut of a dude. It is his duty to activate the purpose of the 6 lives, now seven after Megan gave birth after the plague, courtesies from one of her wrong choices. Instead of spending their lonely year on a disintegrating earth questioning life, meaning, destiny and the universe while changing their lives and who they are, like they were supposed to so they could become infinitely wiser and know the truth, they’ve wasted time messing around, watching movies, having parking lot demolition derbies, and torching up Safeway. Giving them visits, and each a miracle of their own, Jared installs in them what their purpose was and how they failed. His plan B is: “You’re to be different now. Your behaviour will be changing. Your thinking is to change. And people will watch these changes in you and they’ll come to experience the world in your new manner,” page 235. He gives them the deal. To return to the time that Karen woke, before the plague, they will have to remember these jobs set on them. Question everything, shout them out loud, and influence everyone to question as well. They might be seen as made. They might become mad. It is the only way to prevent the returning to this plagued, soiled world again though. “I have to go back into my . . . coma,” page 276. Unfortunately this is the catch for Karen. She will never awaken from her coma like she did before. And although this is the sorrowful truth to the deal, Jared keeps it a secret that he, too, must remain in this soiled alternate world for eternity as payment. It is sad, but the meaning of questioning our lives ends this story beautifully. “We’ll draw our line in the sand and force the world to cross our line,” page 284. What this book leaves you with is hope.
               Written by:  Sarah.

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