Book Review | Strange Nervous Laughter


This book review was originally published by The Grand Rapids Press

Love: Poets, singers and writers have tried to properly catalog it for millennia. Some have succeeded, and some have failed miserably.

Bridget McNulty succeeds in her debut novel “Strange Nervous Laughter” (Thomas Dunne Books, 248 pages, $23.95).

She writes about the “three stages of love. In love, out of love, and in the precipice in between the two” with uncanny originality. In the novel, she intertwines the lives of six special characters: Beth, Mdu, Aisha, Harry, Meryl and Pravesh.

Because of love, the lives of these six characters will never be the same.

It is the hottest summer that Durban, South Africa, has known. Beth, a woman who falls “in love too hard, too fast” will find the perfect man for her, Pravesh. Or so she thinks. But, regardless of how the relationship fares, Pravesh may be the best thing that happens to Beth.

Then there is Aisha, who is “not like most of us,” and quite literally lives in her dreams. She is found by Mdu, a man who, for most of his life, was forced to lead a life that everyone else wanted him to live.
He has let go of that life but only half-lives a life of his choosing. Once Aisha and Mdu find each other they both fully live. But are they truly happy?

Lastly, there is Harry, a South African man committed to only green foods to commemorate the memory of his Irish great-grandfather. Oh, and to break a Guinness World Record. He crosses paths with Meryl, a woman so tightly wrapped in a corset of cynicism that she can barely breathe. Harry’s naivete starts slowly ripping away at the corset in the unlikeliest of ways.

Truth served with humor
This is a tale of love, but it is constantly peppered with a refreshing humor that makes it a breeze to read. Adding to that are nuggets of truth that speak to the reader. In fact, McNulty finds more than one way to speak to the reader throughout the book.

In this novel, McNulty combines the mystical with the real, blending it seamlessly and creating a book that is larger than life.

McNulty was born and raised in Durban, South Africa, and studied creative writing in Franklin and Marshall College in the U.S.



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