I finished this book in one sitting, more or less. In one day. Last night, as a matter of fact.
What makes this book eerie to me is the fact that it is, FTMP, plausible. Maybe not how the end of mankind came to be, perhaps, but that, in the end, we always relate the end of the world to coincide with the end of society, which invariably means the end of people. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
It is possible for a woman to be in a coma for 17 years. It is genetically possible for a woman in a coma to be pregnant. It is also possible that a group of friends go through almost 2 decades without one bona fide revelation about the meaning of life among them.
In Girlfriend, Coupland raises the concept that we do tend to respond to depth and insight with cynicism and sarcasm. We are appearing to just not have faith in much. As in Generation X and Microserfs and Miss Wyoming, the solution to life's perilous assembly line feel is to break out of the world you're in and create another. This world seems to be the consumerist culture that has overtaken us.
Most end of the world scenarios are not about the planet imploding or disappearing. It's either depicted through the eyes or one or more survivors or no (human) survivors at all. In this depiction, we see what our man-made world would look like in our absence, a wasteland of concepts no longer needed. Nuclear plants running without people to monitor them, power outages, no fresh or clean food that is not packaged to survive such a state of disorder. Lawns grown over, buildings falling to ruin, because earth, you see, takes over. It takes over when we no longer exist, thinking we are kings of earth.
Coupland's characters, instead of marveling at the fact that they are the only survivors and questioning what significance they have, they do what all of us would likely do, as was depicted in the movie Night of the Comet and various movies like it. We'd ransack malls and drive no longer privately owned cars, laughing at the futility of money or of how we will survive since we do not know how to farm or hunt or fish. In the void of this assumed structure we've come to depend on even as it slowly suffocates us, we crumble.
Or do we?
On a side note, my Bible study group is studying Proverbs, which is the study of the pursuit of wisdom. We all agreed that wisdom, apart from knowledge alone, comes most often through time and age, and cannot be rushed for our own gain. A girl who slips into a coma in the 1970's and awakens in the 1990's would have a lot of wisdom to dispense, not because she was conversing with God or Allah or angels in her sleep, but because she can show us, by contrast, what we have and have not accomplished during her sleep. Sometimes wisdom is in contrast to what has been walking alongside us throughout our lives; it is the refreshing voice that is untainted by our modernity.
Coupland's call to order has many holes. He seems to be telling us to discover ourselves, to note our importance. That we are social, loving, spiritual creatures with a desire to learn and gain knowledge and experiences, but that we are easily pacified and limited in our comfort. These orders or statements of obvious human traits are not new. But the characters show us that for all our pride, we are small without one another, we are made small in the ways we limit ourselves. But what if your dream is to be an actor, or a doctor, a model or a fireman? Is it possible to have dreams for the future that do not involve what career path you choose or where you go to school?
Boys and girls, I do not know. For all the times I repeat to myself that I am not my job, that I am much more than that, I cannot tell you what I am. But I am desperately trying to seek wisdom, which is the best I can do.
And I do believe Coupland is trying to motivate his readers, that he's not simply commenting on how life or or how it will be. He doesn't claim to have any answers, and his depictions of death, heaven, ghosts, and the odd series of coincidences that haunt the book's fated characters, are intentionally vague and non-linear. They mesh together variables of what we all want to believe, what we hope will come true when we break through the membrane of the mundane and just...get on with it, whatever it is.