For readers feeling overwhelmed by the influx of dystopian- and apocalyptic-themed entertainment, Jean Teulé's The Suicide Shop will hit the spot. Current literary trends make this a perfect time for this short, sweet satire, first published in France in 2006 and translated for British readers two years later, to hop over to our side of the pond.
Environmental and economic chaos have wrecked the Earth. In this sad new world, suicide rates soar, but many attempts fail. For proper equipment and professional advice, many of the would-be dead turn to the Suicide Shop. (Its motto: "Has your life been a failure? Let's make your death a success.") The Tuvache family has run the shop for generations, bemoaning the fact that their commitment to helping others choose and carry out their dream deaths dooms them to living long, depressed lives.
The current generation is no different. Monsieur and Madame Tuvache assist customers in selecting nooses, poisons and seppuku trappings by day and read their children bedtime stories about doomed lovers at night. Their daughter is convinced of her own ugliness and uselessness; their oldest son bandages his head against perpetual migraines while designing a suicide-themed amusement park. They're the ideal purveyors of death, at least until Alan is born.
Alan, the third Tuvache child, exhibits a disturbing tendency toward smiling during infancy. While his parents initially tell themselves it's just gas, as Alan grows up, he continues to show unmistakable signs of happiness and optimism: laughing, joking, singing silly songs and, worst of all, trying to convince customers that life is still worth living.
A little bit Roald Dahl and a little bit Addams Family, Teulé's story nevertheless sports its own irreverent brand of humor. While more sensitive readers may not find some of the jokes appealing, those who like their comedy on the dark and ludicrous side will find much to tickle their funny bones. At heart, Teulé's modern fable celebrates life and the joy that can come simply from living it. Fans of futuristic settings may lament the lack of detail put into the outside world, but the inner world of the Suicide Shop has a detailed structure and logic all its own. This snide, hilarious affirmation of life is to die for. --Jaclyn Fulwood
Shelf Talker: Quirky and hilarious, this dark fable about a future in which a suicide boutique flourishes until the proprietors give birth to an optimistic son affirms the joys of living.