More Droll Than Tragic

Review by Rea Keech

There are already 2,511 reviews of this novel on Amazon and 3,945 on Goodreads, and so I will just explain why I found it such a pleasure to read. It wasn’t for the plot or action (mostly chick concerns) but for the witty, humorous voice of the author in describing her characters. In general, she tends to find people and the situations they get themselves into far more droll than tragic.

The novel is filled with comments that made me laugh out loud. Instead of a review, I will just list a few of them to show what I mean:

  • Dan had cooked the spaghetti, so it was hearty and bland.…He stirred his ingredients like concrete mix, one arm wrapped around the bowl, the other stirring the gluggy mix so vigorously you could see his biceps working.
  • Gemma was dressed, as always, like an oddly beautiful bag lady.
  • She was wearing jeans and a white T-shirt that looked suspiciously like it might have been ironed.
  • In fact, she generally swore only in situations involving cockroaches or her sisters.
  • He was always so chipper after sex.
  • It was a bad habit of hers, complimenting strangers on their physical attributes. She once told a woman in an elevator that she had an especially lovely collarbone. The woman had looked panic-stricken and had begun jabbing at the elevator buttons.
  • Sometimes when Gemma thought about sex, sometimes even when she was having sex, she felt a faint echo of that horror she felt as an eight-year-old. My goodness, she’d think, looking up at the ceiling as some boyfriend earnestly scrabbled around her body, what in the world is he doing now?
  • “My wife is a triplet, you know,” Dan said chattily. He leaned back against the squeaky vinyl sofa and crossed his arms comfortably behind his head. Cat watched him suspiciously. He was finding marriage counseling far too enjoyable for her liking.
  • The cab pulled away from the curb in a mature, sober fashion so Cat could see just how childishly she’d behaved.
  • Perhaps she could just choose to stop being angry, as recommended by Lyn’s self-help gurus.
  • When Lyn was in her final year at university, she had a profound, almost religious experience: She read The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Every page brought a new epiphany. Yes! she kept thinking, as she highlighted another paragraph in fluorescent yellow and felt herself expanding with potential.
  • Next thing she knew Michael had his arms around her and they were kissing in a way that had a very distracting sexual element. Lyn had become the Other Woman—an event not listed on her five-year plan.
  • It was later that night and Lyn stood at the bathroom mirror applying her moisturizer with upward patting motions.
  • Most men, Gemma knew, were convinced they were extraordinarily talented lovers and simultaneously terrified that maybe they weren’t. It was important to pay them lavish compliments about their abilities. It put them in a good mood.
  • He could remember rugby league grand final scores from fifteen years ago and quote whole slabs of Simpsons dialogue, but his memory of personal events was notoriously shocking.
  • “There you go, my dear! All defuzzed!” The beautician patted Cat’s legs with uncalled-for intimacy.
  • One of the multitudes of ex-boyfriends had been a country music fan and left Gemma with an unfortunate passion for Tammy Wynette. It was like, Cat thought, he’d given her herpes.
  • He was a strange, inscrutable man, with a disconcerting habit of allowing his eyelids to droop, turtlelike, whenever any of his staff spoke. The longer they spoke, the more it seemed he was drifting into a deep, comfortable sleep.
  • Cat didn’t need to see her mother’s face to know the lemony expression of distaste that would be pulling at her mouth as she said the word “counseling.” Counseling was something other people did.
  • “I’m a little tense” was a deeply personal revelation for her mother. It must be something terrible. It would be just like Maxine to announce terminal cancer over Christmas lunch.
  • There was a moment’s silence in the kitchen. The central characters had left the stage, leaving the supporting cast without a script.
  • Lyn had even given her a book called Ten Stupid Things Women Do to Mess Up Their Lives and helpfully indicated with a Post-it note the chapter on the stupid thing she believed Gemma was doing.
  • I’ve always had an interest in lepers,” Nana Kettle told Dan. “I beg your pardon?” Dan looked dazed. His paper crown was leaving a stain of red across his forehead. “Lepers!” chimed in Gemma. “Nana has always had an interest in lepers. It means your present is probably a donation on your behalf to the Leper Foundation. That’s what she gave Michael last year.
  • Something about the expression on his face made Gemma think, Uh-oh, he’s about to share. It was lovely of course, but she had a terrible habit of laughing in the wrong places when boyfriends got profound.
  • For starters, Hank was American. Americans were more open about this sort of thing. They liked chatting about deeply embarrassing emotions. They loved weird phobias! There was no such thing as an Aussie Oprah.

These are just a few quotes from the earlier parts of Three Wishes. If they don’t make you want to read the novel, I guess the novel isn’t for you.