Reviewed by Magdalena Ball
My Inflatable Friend
By Gerald Everett Jones
ISBN 9780979486616, paperback, April 2007, 15.99
Let me be honest here. This is not a genre I’d normally read. I had to be dragged, kicking and screaming (very quietly) to it. But that said, there are times when you really don’t want to work too hard: a hard day in the office, screaming kids, nothing on the tellie, and only cold water in the tap. Everett Jones take me away.
Rollo Hemphill is the protagonist of this humorous story and he’s actually rather likeable in a goofy boyish sort of way. One of the first lessons in this book is that appearances are deceptive — it’s a theme that runs throughout the novel. Hemphill appears to be your average, low achieving car park guy. His sole goal in life seems to be the desire to bed the pretty beautician Felicia. For the rest of his part, Rollo is just an ordinary guy trying to stay out of trouble while basically getting into it.
But Rollo isn’t really without skills or ambitions. He’s an IT hacker on probation, with good reason to stay out of trouble, and a man with a good enough heart to risk prison for the sake of a friend, Audrey the journalist. He wants more from Felicia than a tumble in the hay and for the most part, his intentions towards Monica LaMonica are honorable too. Guest star, the larger than life Monica LaMonica, isn’t what she appears either. Vivid big hair and heart shaped sunglasses aside, Monica just wants love and a little privacy. The inflatable part is Rollo’s ego. Or maybe it’s Monica’s double. Or perhaps it’s the semblance of who people think we are, when inside we’re all something just a bit more, or less.
My Inflatable Friend is well written and funny, with Rollo’s first person confessional narrative making the reader a willing ally in the story. Rollo makes for an effective protagonist, between his self-deprecation, and his extensive vocabulary, which combines to form an almost comic effect:
I swear at that point I had no plan. I was a private eye rummaging through my shifty client’s desk looking for some damning clue. I was a scum-loving bottom feeder looking for a morsel of edible detritus. I was a rabid move fan looking for some titillating scrap I could cherish as a souvenir for the rest of my natural life. (58)
An additional narrative perspective is provided by Special Agent Arlen Pugley, who is on Rollo’s case and who interjects with his own view into Rollo’s confession. His alternating chapters give the reader additional information and provide a neat foil to Rollo’s sincerity. Other characters in the book are delightfully quirky, and if they err on the side of being a little shallow and unbelievable, the reader won’t care. From the mayor-elect superhero undie wearing Merle, to the paparazzi pretense of the Winnebago driving Honeypackers, the book keeps the reader laughing until the end.
My Inflatable Friend is a super easy read that won’t tax even the laziest reader. It is pitched to a male audience in the main, and makes no apologies for that — there’s plenty of wish fulfilment, skirt chasing, and a definite male perspective. But the book isn’t dumb either. The language is rich, the plot fast paced, and satisfying, and Rollo is a well rounded character that won’t jar a feminist.
About the reviewer: Magdalena Ball runs The Compulsive Reader. She is the author of Sleep Before Evening, The Art of Assessment, and Quark Soup.