Mister Spoonface by Paul Blaney

Mister Spoonface by Paul Blaney

Title: Mister Spoonface

Author: Paul Blaney

Review by Thivija Sabanathan

Mister Spoonface by Paul Blaney follows Fred Pooley as he returns to London after six years in Tokyo.

Following a bad breakup, he left for the sanctuary that Tokyo could provide; his days were overtaken by work and he transformed from living into merely existing. However, ‘a gaping hole lodged between his stomach and his heart’ became increasingly prominent, which resulted in his abrupt return home. He created new relationships as well as reconnected with old loved ones, and he strived for happiness. The hole settled, apparently distracted, but it soon remerged with a vengeance, no longer satisfied with his typical interactions. Fred then understood the cause behind the hole. Learning of his own biological children, the hole was filled with a love that required drastic actions; a terrifying compulsion to be their father arose.

However, his attempts to integrate himself into his children’s lives caused me to question what a ‘father’ is because it is clearly more than simple biology. Fred believed that he loved his children, but his love bordered on an obsession that presented danger to himself, his children and his children’s families. Furthermore, the love that he felt was based on fantasy, for he didn’t know the children’s personalities, behaviours, habits and peculiarities that parents fall in love with; he loved the idea of his children rather than the children themselves. Fred also judged the parents of the children, imagining that he could do better, but loving a child is wanting what’s best for them, and he was often unable to see the parents’ good and his harm towards the children. To be a father is a responsibility that Fred could not grasp.

Forming connections

Blaney’s narrative was incredibly effective in placing the reader within Fred’s mind. Despite the severity of his actions, through understanding Fred and his thought processes, his actions were almost rationalised. The only moment of shock that I experienced due to the extent of his actions was when the book presents letters; these letters document Fred’s attempts at forming connections with his children, attempts that had not been previously described in the book thus they weren’t experienced with Fred’s justification clouding my judgment. As I read these letters, I felt my eyes widen and finally truly realised the wrongness of his actions. Blaney raised difficult themes and provided an unusual point of view to create three dimensional answers.

Having read several books dealing with mental health issues, I found the ‘gaping hole’ particularly interesting. His bursts of crying could be indicative of depression, and its probable cause – a loss – also supports this theory. Although implied, the malady that plagued him is never explicatory expressed. I personally appreciated this ambiguity as it allowed the readers, with their own personal experiences, to identify with Fred. The hole that he experienced could be sadness, longing, even pain, or it could indicate mental health conditions. The reader would be able to infer to their will and therefore gain more from the book than if the nature of his condition was stated.

Mental health

Many books on mental health depict isolation, but Fred had multiple relationships, some of which were fulfilling and a distraction from the hole whereas others left him aching for more. His relationships included those with parents and parental figures, girlfriends and ex-girlfriends, as well as various children.

It was interesting to see how his mental health interacted with these relationships and whether those around him exacerbated or relieved his symptoms. A common preconception is that daily life and mental health problems cannot coexist, which can occur in more severe cases, but many people have to struggle through both. Therefore, Blaney’s exploration of Fred’s various relationships created a more complete and comprehensive representation of an individual’s life and of mental health itself.

I found Mister Spoonface to be a gripping book with an unusual plot that raised many questions about fatherhood, love and mental health – questions which readers will continue to ponder long after the last page has been turned.

Review by Thivija Sabanathan

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