When middle-aged Jean was a little girl, her mother told her she didn’t have a practical gene in her body. Jean took this to mean a “practical Jean,” and now that she’s grown and has found her purpose, she’ll show her mom just how practical she really is.
Jean has just endured a few months caring for her mom during her illness and eventual death, and is reeling at just how unfair old age can be. No one should suffer as her mom did, and everyone should go out with joy, before the indignities of age and the suffering of disease ruins them. Ever practical, Jean decides to give the best gift she can give to all those whom she loves: one final happy moment and a quick death.
Jean has many different types of friends: the blunt, forthright one who always tells her like it is; the old reliable college friend; the fun, wild friend whose circumstances have tamed her . . . and don’t we all have friends like this? Jean has all types of relationships that she’s collected during her life, some that have fallen by the wayside and others that have fallen completely apart.
I took comfort in how the author addressed how difficult it is for women to find and keep friends in middle age. The author concedes a point that men don’t usually form close friendships at this age, and don’t need them or seek them out (is this true?). There are so many things that hinder older women from forming friendships: different socioeconomic statuses, different stages of life, different relationships with spouses. When you’re in elementary school, all it takes is “hey, we’re on the playground at the same time, now we’re best friends,” but as women age, the baggage, the insecurities, and the life demands smother many potential friendships.
Practical Jean is an unusual book. Even though she bumped off her friends, it was done out of love, and I found myself still pulling for Jean in the end. (What does that say about me?) The women in this book are hilarious, but at the same time very sad. It’s a dark comedy, a relationship study, a heartwarming tale of love . . . and murder.