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Practical Jean

3.32 of 5 stars 3.32  ·  rating details  ·  580 ratings  ·  147 reviews
Jean Vale Horemarsh is an ordinary, small-town woman with the usual challenges of middle age. She's content, mostly, with the life she's built: a semi-successful career as a ceramics artist, a close collection of women friends (if you ignore the terrible falling out she had with Cheryl all those years ago), a comfortable marriage with a kind if otherwise unextraordinary ma...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published October 11th 2011 by Harper Perennial (first published September 21st 2010)
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Lydia Presley
Original review posted here

I really, really, really wanted to love this book. I’ve been on such a good run, and recently read a book (Fathermucker by Greg Olear) that had me in stitches. It wasn’t until fairly recently that I started to really get into the harder edge of comedy that these types of books offer, so I, like I said earlier, I really wanted to like this one.

But I didn’t.

This is why:

Jean is not a likeable character. She seems to break(? I don’t know if that’s the right word for it, bu...more
Scott Thoms
This is a darkly humerous book with an entirely Canadian sense of humour. American humour punches you in the face. British humour makes you work. Canadian humour is like Mama Bear's porridge. It's just right.
Trevor Cole creates a very interesting character in Jean. She's learned a life lesson the hard way, that death can come far, far too late and at too great a cost. It is with practical determination and love for her friends that she determines that they will leave this life beautifully. Jean...more
Darkly humorous. Jean has always yearned to be in her mother's good graces, a childhood of trying to fit in with her mom's expectations take their toll. Jean's mom is fading fast from cancer, and Jean becomes her caretaker. Seeing what her mom is going through, along with Jean's own misgivings of her life(her marriage, her long-lost friendship that she holds herself responsible for its dissolution, the cliched lives her close friends lead, her art career not taking fulfilling her inner passion)...more
Practical Jean by Trevor Cole

I enjoy reading humour and Practical Jean is not only funny but also a Stephen Leacock prize winning novel.

Darkly humourous, this story is about a woman named Jean Horemarsh, middle aged and from a small town, who has just spent three months caring for her dying mother. This experience upsets her deeply. Jean then realizes that what she wants most is to do something nice for her friends. Her plan is to prevent her dearest f...more
Ruth Seeley
This is a book that's dying to be a movie (although I have no idea who should star in it - there's definitely a role for Kathy Bates as Fran Knubel, one of Jean's friends who isn't part of her 'inner circle'). After single-handedly nursing her very practical veterinarian mother through a painful and undignified death from cancer, Jean, a ceramic artist whose creations are so fragile only she can move them, decides that infirmity, old age, and a slow painful death is something she'd like to spare...more
Christina (A Reader of Fictions)
For fans of black comedy, this novel is just about perfect. Of course, black comedy doesn't appeal to everyone; certainly, it did not appeal to me when I was younger. Now, however, I find that I quite enjoy dark humor. Basically, if you find the description to be amusing and want to read more, then you'll quite enjoy the book.

Jean, of course, is crazy. What else could one possibly expect of someone stuck with the last name of 'Horemarsh?' Cole does a great job of making her brand of craziness be...more
I will be thinking about this book for a while - partly the story itself, and partly my ongoing debate with myself about Cole's characters. I really don't like them. It isn't the subject matter (I had an even stronger reaction against the characters in the Fearsome Particles) but something about who they are and their personalities. Imagine working with Milt, or being in a book club with Jean.... I don't think characters need to be likable, and I actually kind of like how they aren't, but I can'...more
Attila Cthulhuson
How does one cope with the inevitability of bodily decline? Well, wfter seeing her mother waste away, Jean decides the kindest thing to do for her friends is to spare them the agony of age, disease, and rebelling organs by snuffing them after giving them a moment of joy. From there it is just a matter of determining which friends are worth her “gift” and how to make them happy. And what about if their lives are already really crummy? Does Jean have time to give them the happiness and killing blo...more
Book Giveaway & Review:
When I was looking for books to review during October, a.k.a. Halloween month, I knew I had a winner when I saw the publisher’s brief synopsis for Practical Jean by Trevor Cole. It cracked me up and made me go “Eeew” all that the same time. I approached the publisher about sponsoring a book giveaway and they said yes! So on top of learning about this twisty tale, one lucky reader will also win a copy of Practical Jean! WooHoo!

A Little Background: Trevor Cole is a Canad...more
Ryan G
Have I ever told you guys how much I love my sense of humor. It tends to lean towards the darker side of things, which is why I find some circumstances funnier than most will. I guess a perfect example, a short one anyway, is from the movie Titanic. I'm sure you know which one I'm talking about, though I didn't really enjoy it that much. There is one moment that cracks me up every time I see it though. When the boat is sinking, tail end up in the air, passengers start to fall like confetti. Ther...more
Jenny Demonic
Jean Hormarsh is an artist whose medium is ceramics. But don't go to her if you want a kitten or a plate. Jean's focus is the intricate delicacy of leaves, and her obsession with perfection means you'll have a beautiful piece (that's usually not going to last long before it snaps). But these days, Jean has a new obsession: not letting her friends die in agony, as her mother has recently done. Jean stayed with her through the agonizing pain and after the funeral she has a realization: her friends...more
Dianne Swanson
Original. Amusing. A rather believable main character doing unbelievable things. I would recommend this as a fast but absorbing read.
Jennifer Taw
Delightfully well-written, rich with black humor, this book cuts to the bone, describing a woman's thought processes, rationalizations, and motivations with such sharp insight into her foibles, weaknesses, and strengths, that she rings true, familiar, and even compelling as she sets out to help her friends. Returning repeatedly to the raw nerve that is our fear of aging, loneliness, loss, and decrepitude, Trevor Cole makes murder seem most practical. The only question that kept coming to mind wa...more
Stephanie (StephTheBookworm)

Jean Horemarsh is a pleasant and content small-town woman. Married to a nice enough man, no kids, and owner of a ceramics business, Jean sadly just watched her mother die a slow and painful death from cancer. Now, she’s decided to give her closest friends a “gift.” She’s decided to kill them to save them from the pain of growing old and ill like her mother…

When I first heard about this book, I was SO excited to read it. Isn’t the premise so bizarre and one of a kind?! Just my kind of book…...more
Shelleyrae at Book'd Out
“Young can you possibly be a Horemarsh? You don’t have a practical gene in your body!” accuses Jean Vale Horemarsh's mother, disapproving of Jean's career as a ceramics artist, her choice of a husband and in fact, of Jean altogether. However after caring for her mother during the last three months of her life, Jean discovers her mother was wrong. An idea coalesces, a practical alternative to her mother's agonising end, one that will spare her closest friends the indignities of aging....more
Originally posted at my blog, a review blog of sorts..."


When I first heard about this book, I was excited. The blurb sounds like a fun dark comedy, the cover fits the blurb to a tee, and overall I knew that I would have a great time reading this. Then I read it and it only left me with mixed feelings.

Jean Vale Horemarsh had to take care of her dying mother, during the ordeal she realized that the entire process was horrible and didn’t want to see anyone else go through that. When her moth...more
Near the beginning of Trevor Cole's black comedic novel, the narrator describes Jean Vale Horemarsh during her younger years:

Her differentness bewildered her fathers and brothers, but it frustrated her mother deeply. So much so that whenever Jean, growing up, did or said something that was out of the sensible family norm-glued hundreds of Swarovski crystals to her fingertips, say, or married a substitute high school English teacher named Milt-Marjorie would sigh and exclaim "Little girl..." or
Christmas booty!

I have to say I was a little unsettled when I read Trevor Cole's opening sentences to this book:

" You might think this is a rather horrible and depraved sort of story. But that's because you're a nice person."

Oh, oh. I've already figured out I am NOT a nice person. I've read both of Trevor Cole's previous novels and really, the people in those books are not so nice either. I recognize not nice. Takes one to know one as they say. In fact, I remember specifically thinking as I read...more
Moira Fogarty
Yikes. Not for me. Opening a novel with 6 pages of straight-up exposition -- no dialogue, no explanation of who the unknown narrator is or why they're telling the story -- is not my idea of a good time. It felt like a voice over opening for a movie version of the book, to be read aloud while the title credits played and the camera panned over the town of Kotemee in a sort of "Blue Velvet" establishing shot. Except, of course, that writing doesn't come with accompanying visuals, so the words have...more
Willy Williams
How far would you go to ensure your dearest friends’ happiness? Would you donate a kidney? Or would you literally kill them with kindness, as does the middle-aged eponymous heroine of Canadian author Cole’s (Norman Bray in the Performance of His Life; The Fearsome Particles) dark comic novel? Jean Vale Horemarsh’s artistic aspirations—gluing Swarovski crystals to her fingertips, ex-perimenting with bizarre ceramic constructions of leaves—always drove her sensible and overbearing veterinarian mot...more
Metaxa Cunningham
Once I received my First Reads copy of Practical Jean from the giveaway program, it did not take me long to finish this delightful satire on friendship, aging and death.

Author, Trevor Cole shows his amazing insight into human nature with the creation of the character of Jean Horemarsh; artisan, wife, devoted daughter and friend. Jean is a charming woman, pushed too far by the the trauma she endures while caring for her dying mother. Deeply disturbed by her mother's suffering, J...more
Rhiannon Ryder
I was lucky enough to snag an advanced copy of Practical Jean through Goodreads Giveaway program recently, and was thrilled when on my first day of stay-cation it landed on my doorstep.

Jean has recently spent three months nursing her dying mother until her last breath. It was awful, and has made a deep and lasting impression on her. So while spending a girls only evening with her closest friends she realises she can't watch them grow old and suffer, it just wouldn't be the right thing to do. Wh...more

Drei Monate lang hat Jean ihre Mutter, die an Krebs erkrankt war, gepflegt. Während dieser Zeit hat sie bis in alle Einzelheiten mitbekommen, wie mies es ist langsam aber sicher dahinzusiechen. Gerne hätte Jean ihrer Mutter das Leid erspart, doch erst im Nachhinein kommt sie auf Ideen, wie sie das hätte machen können. Und weil sie ihrer Mutter nun nicht mehr helfen kann, denkt sie an die Menschen, die sie sonst am meisten liebt - ihre Freundinnen. Ihnen will sie das Leid des...more
I had won this book through a free giveaway here on Goodreads; my very first (and currently only) book to be won, in fact. At first I was a little sceptical about it, because the plot seemed to scream chick lit to me. I mean, most of the characters are females - including the heroine - so, indeed, why should I take a chance and not just hand this to my mother? Well, as I soon found out as I started reading, there's much more to it than that.

Jean Vale Horemarsh makes ceramic leaves for a living....more
George Ilsley
Satire and black humour are my favourite things, so I greatly enjoyed the novel of this novel. That is, right up until Jean picks up a shovel and kills her friend. This to me is usually a deal breaker, when murder creeps into a satirical work. Death is just so messy, it is next to impossible to sustain the narrative after that. (I feel the same way about movies portraying assassins. I just don't understand assassin comedy flicks.)

Once the murder started, I felt much more distanced and much less...more
Practical Jean is all dark comedy, and in the heart of that comedy lies some of the most heart-breaking pathos one will ever experience. Wickedly funny and refreshingly original, Trevor Cole manages to capture the beauty of friendship and the despair of aging at the same time. Definitely not for the more sensitive reader, Mr. Cole posits one's duty as a friend and the very heated debate on the suitability of euthanasia.

On the surface, Jean is anything but practical. At least, that is what she ha...more
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
This book is twisted, hilarious, sad, horrifying, bittersweet, shocking, and wildly fun. The story follows Jean Vale Horemarsh, a ceramicist who, after watching her mother's slow death from cancer, decides the truest way to show her dear friends how much she loves them is to ensure they die quick deaths while happy. So she makes her list, and her fuzzy plan (she likes to go by feel, the same way she creates her art), and goes to work.

The result is awesome. Cole's writing is wonderful -- effortle...more
This is one of those times when I wish I could conjure up my NC, high school girlfriends to sit around the living room and discuss a book. We would have a field day with this one! In fact, if your book group is wondering what to read next for a wild time, this is your best bet. Hilarious!! I hardly know where to begin to tell you about this book... It's just flat out good reading and side-aching laughs.

The first line that hit me so hard I still can't think about it or I laugh out loud in grocery...more
Shonna Froebel
This story is well-written and has a unique plot, but somehow I just couldn't connect with it and had to force myself to finish it.
Jean makes a living creating unique ceramic pieces based on leaves. They are fragile and expensive and often don't work out for her. She is married to Milt, a substitute teacher at the high school level.
For the last few months, she has been giving care to her mother who has been dying from cancer. This experience, seeing her mother in pain and no longer enjoying life...more
This was a rather... odd little book. I'm really not sure what to say about it.

Cole's portraits of these complicated female friendships is as good a place to start as any, I guess. That's quite a subject for a male author to tackle. Superficially, though, I think he did a pretty good job. Presumably, he's witnessed some of these friendships from the outside, and from these observations, has drawn some conclusions as to how they operate from the inside, and that steered him pretty well. But not q...more
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Trevor Cole (born Trevor William Cole on February 15, 1960) is a Canadian novelist and journalist. His first two novels, Norman Bray in the Performance of his Life (2004) and The Fearsome Particles (2006), were nominated for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction and longlisted for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.
More about Trevor Cole...
Norman Bray, In the Performance of His Life The Fearsome Particles The All-New Illustrated Guide to Gardening: Now All Organic! The Ontario Gardener (Complete Gardening Guide Written & Illustrated Specifically For Ontario Gardeners.) Gardening Manual for Canada

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