The Loving Dead Essay

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Love, Lust and Death are universal human experiences and perpetual literary themes. "The Loving Dead" blends them in a way that I have never seen before. Amelia Beamer's debut novel involves: Oakland California, twenty-something slackers, their angsts and relationships, and a zombie apocalypse. Its characters are realistically self-centered, its apocalypse realistically dealt with more through text messaging and comment threads than through the main stream media, and its ending is different than any horror/zombie/apocalypse story ending I've ever read or heard of. Frankly, I think that the last ten pages alone are worth the price of admission, but overall this is a fast and rewarding read.

Kate and Michael are the central characters in "Loving Dead." They're housemates, both working at Trader Joe's in Oakland. Kate appears to be in a staging area in life before moving on with her life: she's earning money at TJ's and as a companion to an older man; she's also taking some community college classes. Michael appears to be stalled out: working at TJ's and hosting hip parties at the house, with few plans for the future. Generally speaking, Kate seems to look out into the world a little more, and Michael seems to look inwards and towards relationships for his future.

After a belly-dancing class one night, Kate helps when her instructor Jamie is accosted by a shambling drunk trying to rape her. She invites Jamie up to the latest house party so she won't be alone. After some booze and Xanax, they hook up--this being Kate's first lesbian encounter. As Kate is getting ready to return the favor, Jamie turns in to a zombie. Hallmarks: eyes turning white, skin turning grey, and speaking the phrase "Something's happening."

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...cked, what would I say? Luckily, I honestly enjoyed the book. The last third of it especially grabbed me; I stayed up late to finish it because I didn't want to put it down. But it was still a little jarring to read at times. Amelia has taken 'write what you know' quite seriously, so I've actually been to the house that Michael and Kate's house is based on; characters have backgrounds that match backgrounds of real people I know, and at one point Kate's voicemail message is the same unique one used by a friend. So that introduced a whole new level of cognitive estrangement for me. But a) that shouldn't affect 99% of the readers out there, and b) during the last third of the book all that fell away. So definitely take my review with a grain of salt. But seriously, give "Loving Dead" a try. At the very least, it's different than anything else you'll read this year.

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