The Gum Thief

Douglas Coupland, Author
Douglas Coupland, Author . Bloomsbury $24.95 (275p) ISBN 978-1-59691-106-2
Reviewed on: 06/18/2007
Release date: 10/01/2007

Two misfits find common ground and a unique, surreal friendship via unspoken words in Coupland’s latest (after JPod ), a fine return to form. In the two years since his wife’s (nonfatal) cancer was diagnosed, Roger Thorpe has devolved into a dejected, hard-drinking, divorced father and the oldest employee “by a fair margin” at Staples. A frustrated novelist to boot, Roger considers himself “lost,” continually haunted by dreams of missed opportunities and a long ago car accident that claimed four friends. His younger, disgruntled goth co-worker, Bethany Twain, one day discovers Roger’s diary—filled with mock re-imaginings of her thoughts and feelings—in the break room. She lays down a “supreme challenge” for them both to write diary entries to each other, but neither is allowed to acknowledge the other around the store. Through exchanged hopes and dreams, customer stories, world views and cautionary revelations (“time speeds up in a terrifying manner in your mid-thirties”), the pair become intimately acquainted before things unravel for both. Running parallel to the epistolary narrative are chapters from Roger’s novel, Glove Pond , which begins having much in common with the larger narrative it’s enclosed in. Coupland shines, the story is humorous, frenetic, focused and curiously affecting. (Oct.)

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