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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Review: Oxford Messed Up

Oxford Messed Up is the story of a couple of confused kids in a crazy, mixed-up world. Gloria suffers from severe germophobic OCD, and Henry is a recovering drug addict with some serious attendant complications. The two couldn't be more different, and and yet when they meet in the loo they share on the Oxford campus, the sparks are palpable. Perhaps their similarly stifling family environments bring them together. Luckily, Henry honestly cares for Gloria and is patient with her problem, and it happens to be therapeutically good for her to fall in love with someone with such terrible hygiene. The book recently won the Best Adult Fiction E-Book Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards. It treats subjects not often seen in love stories and the innovation is to be applauded. It's a book about intelligent people making  the tough choices that will ultimately improve their lives, written by a clearly sensitive writer.

Make no mistake, this book is a commentary on the Scriptures, the holy texts being the lyrics of Van Morrison. Because I am not familiar with Van Morrison's oeuvre, it was hard for me to sympathize with characters who are so obsessed with him. Only after I finished did I think to replace "Van Morrison" in the text (it shows up on almost every page) with my own favorite singer-songwriter, Manolo Garcia. What a thrilling book that would have been!

Overall, this book will strongly appeal to people who are recovering from a disease or addiction. Gloria's progress through cognitive behavior therapy is spectacular, nearly unbelievable, but inspiring. I wanted a bit more about what it felt like to be OCD. We could hear the thoughts, but I wondered about the physical sensations Gloria felt. When someone spills a Coke on her, she goes nuts, but what does the sticky sweet substance really feel like to her sensibilities? When the dog licks her, does she feel dirty for hours afterward? Would she rather run off to take a shower in chemical sanitizer than calmly keep walking with her new boyfriend?

I didn't think the epilogue was necessary, but, again, some readers will love it. The academic atmosphere seemed just as idealized as everything else in this wonderfully optimistic world. I love optimism, but in my experience, academia is not a place where it can flourish.

Tune in to this blog next week for an interview with the author of this intriguing book!