Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland is one of the most interesting pieces of fiction I can recall reading. It’s unique in its storytelling and the story emotionally grips you from start to end. The events don’t necessarily build suspense, but the surreal events that happen make you react in a similar way. It’s impossible to put the book down even for nourishment. I recommend this book as often as I possibly can.
“Destiny is what we work toward. The future doesn’t exist yet. Fate is for losers!”
It starts as a straight forward story about Karen Ann McNeil who slips into a coma in 1979 at the age of seventeen. Just before her coma, she began to have dark visions about her. Full of angst she warned her boyfriend Richard about them. It seems her precognitive dreams weren’t mistaken because soon after she falls into a coma. Nine months after she pops out a baby girl named Megan.
For the next seventeen years, Karen sleeps while her friends, family, and Richard kind of float through life unsuccessfully. When Karen awakens their lives suddenly change and amazing things begin to transpire. It seems every moment in their life had brought them to that point. It feels like a version of “It’s a wonderful life” twisted backward, frontwards, and downwards. It’s then Karen’s family and friend’s morality and basic common decency is tested. This brings them to one final choice in the end.
“Youth is the time of life lived for some imaginary audience.”
The story had me locked from the get-go with Coupland’s fanciful tempo of writing and the questions he immediately began to pose. From the start, I was lost in the peculiarities and little details, but my fascination with the mystery and characters kept me completely absorbed. I found the portion while Karen slept to be amusing, yet slightly sinister. My favorite line was from Richard. At this point, he was in his 30’s and reflecting on his life and how his choices had impacted where he ended up.
“I wonder if you had to right now, would you put your lives choices, the ones that would dictate where you ended up in the hands of a seventeen-year-old?”
Read the book and you will fully experience the impact of that revelation.
By the end of the story I was questioning my own existence, my own convictions, what my intents were in the world, my own why’s, and fell into a full existential hole. I loved how the book traversed from dark comedy to science fiction. I found myself being enlightened while simultaneously entertained. Enough can’t be said about the pleasure this book is, and frankly, it’s probably even more important to read now than my first experience 15 years ago. Girlfriend in a Coma is a unique piece of storytelling that is even more enjoyable on repeat readings.