All My Friends Are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman

DATE FINISHED: July 28th, 2012 

RATED: **** (4.5)

SYNOPSIS:  On their wedding night, Tom becomes invisible to his wife, The Perfectionist. After six months of waiting for Tom’s return, The Perfectionist buys a plane ticket and a new apartment in a new city. Invisibly, Tom sits next to his wife throughout the plane journey trying to think of ways to make her see him. Time is running out – will he discover his own superhero power in time?

THOUGHTS:  At first glance, this is a not very subtle but quirkily humorous story about the characters we build in order to survive everyday life. A superhero power exists for every strategy, defence, and pigeonhole we find for ourselves and for the people we know.

The Shadowless Man has set his shadow free for a lighter outlook on life: “Zimmerman’s shadow hesitated. Almost imperceptibly, it nodded. It pushed itself to its feet. It walked across the room and closed the bedroom door behind itself.”

The Fifth Business is quite disturbing: “He knows everything about you. He knows the one thing that needs to happen so you can fulfill your dreams. He knows the single event that would trigger your downfall. And he’s deciding, right now, which one he’ll make happen.

Scattered throughout the story of Tom and the Perfectionist, Kaufman provides character sketches for numerous everyday superheroes of their acquaintance, and they are all people that we can recognise. A touch of stereotyping? Maybe. A touch of pop. psychology? Maybe. But there is a qualifier: “The final stage of finding your superhero name is accepting how little difference it really makes. Okay, there’s this thing you can do, a thing you can do like no other person on the planet. That makes you special, but being special doesn’t mean anything. You still have to get dressed in the morning. Your shoelaces still break. Your lover will still leave you if you don’t treat her right.

This is one of those books that will always find itself categorised under ‘quirky’ and may put some readers off as a result.  Don’t be put off!  At the end of the day, the superhero stuff is just an excuse to play in the dressing-up box. Ultimately and essentially, this is a true love story. Sweet as they come.

FOLLOWING ON: All My Friends Are Superheroes is barely a hundred pages long, but I am looking forward to reading his first novel, The Waterproof Bible, which from the synopsis looks to have some similar character traits (will update after reading).  Pobby and Dingan by Ben Rice introduces imaginary friends into a real life community, in a similar manner.

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