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Yes, I Do Feel All Out of Sorts

At the halfway point of reading Aurélie Valognes's debut Out of Sorts (2016), my mind took me to Rose's dream sequence in the Golden Girls' season 1 episode "A Little Romance." It was a farcical scene that brought on much laughter mostly because of the brilliance of the four actors. As an audience member, I could follow along because the set up had been clear. I was in on the joke.

That wasn't the case when I got to the midpoint of Out of Sorts. I started to wonder whether I had wandered into a dream sequence and had missed the cues that set up the ridiculousness of the events that occurred. Nope, no such misses, so it was also at that point that I wanted what started out as a quirky but entertaining read to just freaking end.

Set in France, Out of Sorts is a quick-read that can best be described as a madcap of a story about Ferdinand Brun, a miserable octogenarian who eventually learns to open his heart and get involved with life. These changes are brought upon by his interactions with his new neighbor, ten-year-old precocious Juliette who dispenses language and advice like an adult, and his nonagenarian neighbor Beatrice Claudel who lives each day as if it's her last.

Out of Sorts is a moralistic tale with a focus on the experiences of those who are lonely in old age: a pervasive sense of hopelessness, helplessness, and uselessness. It's a story about how building and maintaining relationships truly becomes a lifeline when one is in old age.

The way in which the story conveys these points, though, is quite...eccentric. I don't know how else to put it. This is a story that I read imagining it being told by a narrator in the tone of Pushing Daises (2007) and How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) or a movie in the style of The Royal Tenenbaums (2001). You know the kind: almost tongue in cheek?

Writing-wise, this story has a few issues. Plot elements felt rushed and development of characters seemed limited, but strangely, I think that aspect fit the story based on the tone that I interpreted. My major gripe though is that the WTF elements midway through the story unnerved and took me way out of the narrative in a way that diminished my humor and enjoyment of the early chapters and overall book.

Still, accepting Out of Sorts for the zany story that I think it was meant to be, I recommend it.

Crossposted at CBR8  here.


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