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Sullivan Moss is useless.

Once a charming underachiever, he's now such a loser that he can't even commit suicide properly. Waking up in hospital after falling the wrong way on a rooftop, he comes to a decision. He shouldn't waste perfectly good organs just because they're attached to his head. After a life of regrets, Sully wants to do one useful thing: he wants to donate a kidney to a stranger.

As he scrambles over the hurdles to become a donor, Sully almost accidentally forges a new life for himself. Sober and employed, he makes new friends, not least radio producer Natalie and her son Louis, and begins to patch things up with old ones, like his ex-best mate Tim. Suddenly, everyone wants a piece of him.

But altruism is not as easy as it seems. Just when he thinks he's got himself together, Sully discovers that he's most at risk of falling apart.

320 pages, Paperback

First published January 28, 2015

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About the author

Debra Oswald

30 books69 followers
Debra Oswald is a Sydney-based playwright and author. She began writing as a teenager and sold her first radioplay at 17. Since then, she’s made her living as a writer for film, television, stage, and radio, as well as publishing a number of novels for children.

Debra has written extensively for the stage and is best known for her play Dags, which has had many productions both in Australia and overseas. Her other plays include Sweet Road, Gary's House, and Mr Bailey’s Minder. Her prize-winning youth theatre play Skate toured to Belfast in 2005. Her television credits include 'Palace of Dreams', 'Bananas in Pyjamas', 'Police Rescue', ‘The Secret Life of Us’, and various dramas for ABC TV Education.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 148 reviews
Profile Image for Brenda.
4,023 reviews2,625 followers
February 13, 2015

Sullivan Moss’ decision to commit suicide, then his planning of it – the note in his wallet; his name in full view – didn’t go accordingly. When he woke in hospital after he’d tripped and hit his head up on the roof, falling away from the edge instead of over it, he knew the uselessness of his life had continued. He wasn’t surprised he couldn’t even get this right – he was resigned to his own stupidity.

But while recovering in hospital he decided he would try to do something useful in his life – his organs were (mostly) in good condition so he followed up by a visit to the renal department. Donation of an organ to a total stranger wasn’t unusual, but it was a procedure that involved a lot of tests, specialists and so on, and that was before Sully was even approved to donate one of his kidneys.

Over the following months, Sully struggled to stay sober; he also searched for a job and in the process gradually made some new friends. Natalie and her eight year old son Louis became a part of his life in a special way. Suddenly he was involved in the lives of others – it was a good feeling. But still Sully was convinced he didn’t deserve their friendship. Mack, the old dog was his dearest friend…

Would Sully be approved for the donation? Could he even stay focused long enough to go through with the donation if he was approved? Or would he fall apart as he had so many times in the past – letting people down once again?

This was an unusual story; one I enjoyed by Aussie author Debra Oswald. Sully was definitely a loser – his character portrayal was done very well. I didn’t particularly enjoy any of the characters, apart from Louis – his eight year old self was sweet and innocent; perfectly played. I felt the story seemed to drag around the middle of the book but picked up toward the end. Recommended.

With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my copy to read and review.
Profile Image for Marianne.
3,320 reviews127 followers
January 28, 2015
“A homeless, unemployed, unloved man, overweight, under-muscled, greasy-haired, pasty-skinned, his forehead scabbed and bruised from the fall, one eyeball stained red thanks to a burst blood vessel, wearing paper underwear, over-eager like a panting Labrador, babbling at her about giving his kidney away to a stranger. Why would anyone accept an organ from such a man?”

Useful is the first adult novel by Australian author, playwright, and television scriptwriter, Debra Oswald. As Sullivan Moss recovers in hospital from an unsuccessful suicide attempt, a routine enquiry from a nurse gives him an idea: he will make up for his hitherto useless existence by anonymously donating a kidney to a stranger. His determination to see this one thing through amazes those who know him. His ex-wife, despite having every reason to abandon him, manages to find him a place to live. Natalie, divorced mother of Louis and a producer of breakfast radio, needs someone to house-sit her recently-deceased father’s flat and look after his ageing dog, and Sully fills that vacancy.

As Sully makes an earnest effort to satisfy the donor requirements, he finds himself making new friends and reconnecting with old ones. Extended sobriety is a new experience for Sully that changes his perspective: “One of the many disadvantages of sobriety was this feeling of separation from people frolicking together on planet Pleasantly Pissed while he orbited on Space Shuttle Sober. He didn’t feel critical of the drinkers, but more benignly observant, like a wildlife documentary maker”, although there are lapses: “He needed an alcohol-sensitive lock on his phone, like the breathalyser ones they put on car ignitions. Given that such a device did not exist, he should avoid drinking at all, so there would be less risk of dumb phone calls that upset good people.”

As her characters deal with a myriad of life’s challenges: death, suicide, sex, psychiatric evaluations, raising children, finding a purpose in life, alcoholism, a corpse in the wrong place, asbestos removal and cancer, Oswald manages to include plenty of humour, much of it quite black. Readers are warned that, when her characters get agitated, some resort to expletives, and also indulge in some rather disappointing behaviour, demonstrating just how flawed human beings can be.

Oswald gives the reader a plot that is entirely believable, with a twist or two to keep it interesting. She includes some marvellous imagery: “The business worries that clamped him down during the day were put aside, and with his family around him, he expanded, like bread dough rising. Joyful bread dough” and “She imagined her mother’s words fluttering down over her like ashy fall-out from a chemical weapon attack, seeping through her skin to eat away at her guts” and “An encounter with Natalie’s mother was like having lemon juice tossed in your eye” are just a small sample.

This is a wonderful story: clever and laugh-out-loud funny, but also heart-warming and with enough emotion to choke up the most callous reader. Oswald’s screen- and play-writing experience is apparent on every page and readers will look forward to more from this talented author. A brilliant read.
Profile Image for Andrea.
755 reviews31 followers
June 4, 2017
This was a good read; starting a bit slow, but then falling into a good rhythm as I got to know the characters better. It was all going along on a fairly even keel, then in the last 50 or so pages, two things happened that had me weeping buckets. And then a fairly abrupt - almost cliffhanger - ending. Hmm? I'm not sure a sequel is warranted, if that's the thinking.

As for the characters - ooh, but I did not like Sullivan! I think I have known too many guys like that to be able to immerse myself in his story without constant feelings of annoyance and frustration. Even when things were going well, I was just waiting for him to stuff up. That in itself is, I think, testament to Debra Oswald's skill as an observer and writer.

So overall, worth reading, but for me it wasn't special.

Profile Image for Lee at ReadWriteWish.
603 reviews77 followers
March 6, 2016
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. I knew the general premise, that its main character, Sullivan, attempts to commit suicide in the opening chapter. He obviously fails, but when in hospital lamenting the fact he’s a waste of space, he gets an idea that he might become a useful member of society if he donates a kidney. It sounded like it could almost be too much of a forced plotline, too contrived maybe, but I’m here to happily report this wasn’t the case and I loved Useful.

Despite his shortcomings, I also loved Sullivan, and cheered him on even when his journey of redemption bounced him from misadventure to misadventure.

I didn’t only like Sullivan, however. Unlike some writers, Oswald has created a diverse and engaging cast of supporting characters. There’s Natalie and her rather dysfunctional family, Sully’s kidney transplant doctor and psychiatrist, Sully’s two besties and their partners, his new boss and his wife, his famous actor friend, his socially awkward neighbour, and his inherited dog. All of them add charm and/or tension, and are used for just the right amount of time by Oswald.

I found Oswald was also a deft hand with keeping the plot balanced and moving along. There was just the right amount of plot twists, romance, comedy, and poignancy. Thankfully nothing ever seemed cliched or read like a soap opera.

I thought the book quite clever on many levels too. Oswald’s writing and descriptions could be thought provoking, and I found the idea of Sullivan keeping himself on the straight and narrow because of his pending organ donation quite fascinating. I needed to keep reading to find out whether or not he would go through with it. I wavered between wishing he wouldn’t (after all it’s quite dangerous) and thinking how disappointed I’d be if he backed out. Plus, like many of the characters, I kept wondering just what would become of Sullivan when he no longer had such a huge goal to keep him sober and decent. Would he immediately return to his old bad habits? Would he try to again commit suicide?

Some of my questions were answered, some weren't. Did this worry me? No, not really. I think there's a lot implied with the ending. I highly recommend you read Useful to find out some of these outcomes for yourself too.

4 ½ out of 5.

Profile Image for Carolyn.
2,123 reviews605 followers
January 25, 2015

Sullivan Moss is not feeling that he has led a useful life. Hitting middle age, flabby, often drunk, an embarrassment to his friends and ex-wife, lacking a career and any useful direction employment, he decides to take his own life. But he can't even do that right and ends up in hospital where he has an epiphany and resolves to make one useful gesture to society and donate a kidney to someone who needs it. However he finds out it will take at least a year to go through the approval process and in the meantime he must demonstrate that he is fit and healthy and of sound mind. Thus begins the renovation of Sullivan Moss.

This is a light hearted look at a man who has spent his youth dabbling and drifting while his friends moved on and found careers and started families. Through finding something useful to set his sights on he finally starts to take control of his life and even to rebuild some bridges and perhaps find love along the way. Although we come to understand that the suicide of Sully's father and the death of his best friend led to his own suicidal thoughts, the book does not dwell on these darker matters. The writing is clean and crisp as might be expected from an experienced scriptwriter. The plot moves along well with several story lines interwoven to keep the action going with a good mix of drama and humour. There are plenty of interesting characters in the book, radio producer Natalie, Sully's friend Tim, movie star Rory and asbestos remover Jose Luis, some of whom who are also not perfect and confident in their life choices. This makes for some amusing scenes and dialogue in the book and an ending that is not totally predictable but nonetheless satisfying.

With thanks to Netgalley for a copy of the book to read and review.
Profile Image for Trevor.
478 reviews50 followers
March 22, 2015
A disappointing read, as prior to reading it I was really looking forward to it. The novel had an interesting premise, and would I thought be a thought provoking read. However, right from the start I must say that I did not have any feeling or sympathy with the lead character, and by the end of the novel the only characters that I had and affection for were the lead characters boss, and his landladies son. I really wasn't interested in what happened to the rest of the characters.

Three stars are not because I enjoyed the novel, but mainly due to the fact that it was well written.
Profile Image for MaryG2E.
372 reviews1 follower
February 16, 2017
The opening sections of this book left me a little luke-warm. Eventually I realised the vague feelings of discomfort I felt were because the author had drawn such an effective portrait of the unlikeable Sullivan Moss. Gradually the book grew on me, and I was committed to following Sullivan's journey from hopelessness to meaningful existence.

Sullivan is so hopelessly ineffectual that he can't even succeed in committing suicide. As he recovers from the incident, he is gripped by a feeling of total personal despair, that he is entirely worthless and does not deserve to live. He conceives the notion of donating one of his healthy organs, a kidney, to a stranger, as a gesture of usefulness in his otherwise useless existence. He embarks on a program of self-improvement to ensure the kidney he donates is in tip-top condition. Along the route from his personal abyss to normalcy, he must deal with the legacy of his betrayals of the few loyal friends who have stuck by him. As good food, work, exercise and sobriety improve his physical and mental condition, he is better able to adjust to changes and to forge new relationships.

Then he gets the phone call from the renal unit that a match has been found...

The narrative of Useful is very much character-driven. There is not a lot of action, and the book proceeds at a relaxed pace. There is a lot of gentle humour, rather than belly laughs.

I really enjoyed Oswald's carefully crafted depictions of some of the characters, including the unhappy couple, Tim and Juliet, miserable in their marriage, and the loving couple, Jose Luis and Liliana. Attractive, competent Natalie is wracked with self-doubt, not helped by constant harping from her acid-tongued mother Judy. The characterisation of the narcissistic movie star, Rory, is rather deliciously devilish, and made me wonder whom she'd modelled him on.

This book is a pleasant read, well-written with an easy, readily accessible prose style. There are some acute observations about human nature, about modern society, and age-old issues of relationships. It did not set my imagination on fire, but I did enjoy this entertaining novel.
Profile Image for Kathryn.
840 reviews
July 24, 2016
I liked this, but I found it a little fantastical, at times. The whole premise of the book, to start with - that the main character decides he wants to donate a kidney to a stranger - I found rather hard to believe. Do people actually do that?

I did enjoy it, as I was reading it, although I discovered that it is best not to read the first part of the book while you’re already feeling miserable (a heavy head cold, in my case) as the main character, Sullivan, who generally can’t do anything right, is a rather pathetic character with a whiny voice which grated on my nerves all the more when I was feeling utterly miserable because I wasn’t able to breathe properly. Several of the other characters introduced in the first part are also thoroughly unlikeable characters who I felt very impatient towards - but perhaps that was also a result of my cold. However, despite disliking most of the characters, they were utterly believable.

From the last couple of chapters in Part One onwards, Sullivan’s voice becomes less whiny and more positive, which is a definite improvement. There is certainly plenty of food for thought in this book - thinking about organ donation, what makes life worth living, and the nature of friendships, amongst others.

Unfortunately, the ending felt rather unresolved, in my opinion. There were issues that I felt were kind of glossed over,
which I thought was naïve, to say the least. But perhaps I am just being overly cynical, as a friend who just read it felt the main characters redeemed themselves at the end.
Profile Image for Michael Robotham.
Author 56 books5,560 followers
February 9, 2015
This is such an enjoyable book. I laughed, I cried, I cringed as I read about the fall and rise and fall and rise of Sullivan Moss. In a lesser writer's hands, Sullivan would be annoying and unworthy or our concern (which is the same question his friends face in the book), but Debra Oswald knows how to spin a story and create quirky, flawed, multi-faceted characters.
Profile Image for Carol -  Reading Writing and Riesling.
1,128 reviews115 followers
January 28, 2015
My View:
Can you transform a useless life into one to be valued? You will be compelled to find out in this character driven exploration of life.

Slowly you are drawn into this compelling study of life: lives filled with wasted opportunities and regret…lives soured by experience, by envy, lives stifled by choices that are no longer embraced and I am not just talking about the protagonist Sullivan Moss…most of the characters in this book have deep regrets about some part of their lives which is preventing them from enjoying living in the now. But don’t get me wrong this is not a dour wallowing in loss, bitterness and mid-life crisis kind of read, it is about rejoicing in one man’s attempt to turn his life around and the implications this turn around has on all those around him. You, the reader will really want Sullivan Moss to succeed on his quest. You become his biggest fan and supporter and will urge him on to a better life; to transform, to become useful.

This novel is written with a healthy dose of the classic Australian sense of humour – plenty of opportunities to laugh at oneself and situations so crazy they are almost slapstick .This is a very visual book, perhaps Ms Oswald’s successful screen writing career is at influence here? Amid the laughter many contemporary issues are deftly introduced and are open for discussion; wealth V happiness, asbestos risks/contamination, working women/childcare/ORGAN DONATION/suicide/midlife crisis…..this book has a lot to offer in what appears, at first glance to be a light hearted read. A great book club read.
Profile Image for Bianca.
1,022 reviews882 followers
January 18, 2016
4 stars

I received this book through NetGalley from Penguin Books Australia, so here's my honest review.

This is book about Sully, a somewhat charismatic 39 year old, who hasn't achieved anything of note in his life - a loser of sorts. He's overweight, divorced with no children, no job, no place to live and no friends who want to hear from him. There's nothing worth living for, so he decides to kill himself. But that's yet another thing to add to his long list of failures and disappointments, as he wakes up in a hospital. While in hospital, he realises that he could do something useful for once by donating a kidney. So he embarks on a quest to doing just that.

Things sort of line-up for Sully, as he finds a flat to live in, in exchange for looking after an old dog, whose owner had passed away. The deceased's daughter, Natalie, is happy to have someone to look after the dog, while she arranges for the apartment to be sold and someone to look after the dog.

It turns out that becoming a donor is not easy, and Sully has to have psychological assessments and a multitude of medical tests before a committee decides if he's fit to donate. While going through the process of becoming a donor, Sully starts a new life, because he's got a purpose.

We get to meet different characters: Natalie, a 35 year old radio producer, who's a divorced mother of an 8 year old boy and living with her overbearing mother. Tim, Sully's childhood friend, is a very rich and successful banker, whose marriage is on the rocks. The other more secondary characters are well drawn and they all have a role to play in Sully's story.

This was a well written book, where all characters are everyday people, not exceptional but not ordinary either - people we all know. Everybody's got a story. Also, nobody's life is really what they hoped it would be. People do and say shitty things. But most people need to be heard, seen and need to find a purpose in life.

I didn't find this book humorous in any way, which doesn't mean that it wasn't a good book. I liked that most of the characters were flawed, especially Sullivan.

Thank goodness most things work out, and that Sully redeems himself, because otherwise I would have been a bit depressed. But don't let that put you off reading it, because it's a good novel.

Recommended: Sure.
Cover:: 4+ stars

Profile Image for Shelleyrae at Book'd Out.
2,425 reviews503 followers
January 29, 2015

Sullivan stepped up onto the low wall and peered over the edge. The job of obliterating himself shouldn't be a huge effort, considering he'd made so little meaningful impact on the world."

Sullivan Moss is useless, once a handsome and charming young man with the world at his feet he is now a puffy faced, unemployed, near forty year old, divorced alcoholic. Wracked with guilt and regret after the death of one of his best friends, he decides to commit suicide by jumping from a building only to fall the wrong way. Waking up in hospital with bruises and concussion, a casual comment from a nurse gives Sully an idea, he can do one useful thing before his next suicide attempt, he can donate a kidney to a stranger.

To everyone's surprise, including his own, Sully begins to turn his life around, determined to honour his commitment. He sobers up and gets a job removing hazardous asbestos. He makes an attempt to repair some of the bridges he burned and makes a friend of his reluctant landlady Natalie, and her son Louis. Redemption isn't going to be easy though.

With a blend of black humour and soap opera like drama, Oswald explores the regrets for the life not lived. It's not just Sully who is struggling with the disappointments of middle age, his best mate Tim is bewildered by his unhappy marriage, and Natalie is beginning to wonder if she will spend the rest of her life alone, living in her mother's spare bedroom.

The narrative is sharp, funny and insightful. I enjoyed the writing though some may be offended by instances of crude language. The mix of slightly surreal and familiar scenario's works well and the story is well paced.

A story about finding meaning and purpose in life, about changing the things you can, and accepting those you can't, Useful is an entertaining read from Australian playwright, author and television scriptwriter (most notably for Offspring), Debra Oswald.

Profile Image for K.
869 reviews80 followers
November 16, 2015
I loved ‘Offspring’, especially Nina’s urban bo-ho chic (Name a woman in Australia who didn’t admire Nina’s wardrobe!) Debra Oswald wrote for this amazing Australian show, so I was very much looking forward to reading this and excited to be given the opportunity by the great folk at Penguin Books Australia and Netgalley. Thanks again!

It’s a very interesting premise; the bildungsroman of a loser who essentially sets about transforming himself and his life through the (rather drastic) decision to be a living organ donor to a stranger. Who knew such a person existed? Sullivan really is a loser and totally useless, to be fair. Scorned by his ‘friends’ and ex-wife, he is overweight, alcoholic and suicidal. His own father killed himself and he loses a dear friend – events of which the psychological impact is never fully explored for the protagonist or reader. Sullivan struggles to form meaningful bonds despite the limitless patience those around him for his childish escapades. This is especially true of his longstanding friend Tim, whose own martial problems form the running subplot of the narrative. I enjoyed reading about Tim and his own development makes for an engaging contrast to Sullivan. Change can be found both inside and outside of the system and for all!

This novel provides an interesting insight into the disappointments of middle age when the feeling of possibility begins to wane. Sullivan is an everyman and represents our fears about the prospect of aging without achieving all those markers – the career, the partner, the house, the 2.5 kids. He is largely a sympathetic character who doesn’t mean to be such a loser, but has fallen into loserdom because of unprocessed past pain. I felt Oswald could have deepened her exploration of this aspect of the novel. Despite Sullivan’s initial lack of drive, redemption is suggested through altruism. The novel avoids didacticism and softens her message (give, guys – it’ll set you free) through humour and totally relatable characterisations. The only character that seemed like a late, patch-on addition was Rory, whose purpose I never fully understood.

I found this novel a little slow to start but oddly compelling as it progressed. I think the development of the protagonist is something to which we can all relate and enjoy, although it is not unpredictable. You can’t help but root for him and that little quiet place in every person that has always felt like a Sullivan, and probably always will. I know I have that part and I enjoyed this journey as a result.

Totally approachable, light and likeable. It is not a hard-hitting investigation of human emotion and alienation (ala Raymond Carver; Greatest. Writer. Ever.) but there is certainly a place for ‘Useful’ and for the moral transformation of Sullivan in our reading lives.

Profile Image for Kate.
802 reviews
January 21, 2015
Here’s the thing with chick-lit and lad-lit: it’s not about the ending, it’s about how the author gets you there. Because really, you pretty much know what’s going to happen within the first few chapters (there are rare exceptions to this rule – David Nicholl’s One Day comes to mind). What you want from your story is humour and an emotional conundrum or two.

Debra Oswald (of Offspring-screenwriting fame) takes you on particularly interesting journey involving organ donation, suicide attempts, a one-eyed dog, pub bands and asbestos removal in her novel, Useful.

Specifically, it tells the story of Sullivan Moss who is in equal parts a charming underachiever, unreliable, thoughtless and a spectacularly crap friend. He decides to do one ‘useful’ thing – donate a kidney to a stranger – and in the process gets a job, sobers up and makes new friends, including radio producer Natalie and her son Louis. I don’t need to tell you much more about the plot short of saying that Oswald adds a few lively twists and turns that ensures the focus is not entirely on Sullivan.

Offspring fans may detect a bit of Nina’s indecision, scattiness and neuroses in some of the Useful characters and why not, Oswald clearly writes those types of personalities very well. While it was easy to laugh at some of the characters (who are ever-so-subtlety stereotyped), there was a darker side to their stories – Sullivan was obviously deeply depressed, his friends Tim and Juliet were bitter and unhappy in their marriage, and Natalie was grieving (for more than just her dead father).

Pleasingly, Oswald avoids tying up all the loose ends at the conclusion of the book. I’m not a huge fan of very neat endings – I far prefer a little wiggle-room for characters and a lingering “Maybe…”. Useful let me have that – a happy ending but not exactly the one I initially expected.

3.5/5 Useful is released on January 28, 2015 – it’s the perfect book to conclude your summer beach reading.

I received my copy of Useful from the publisher, Penguin Books Australia via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Elaine.
355 reviews
July 24, 2016
This is one of those books that gets better as you read on, although having said that it does start with a bang. Sully is disillusioned with his life and the way he has totally stuffed it up and decides to end it all and so begins his story. I found that I vacillated between disliking him and liking him and it was the same with a few of the other characters. In the end though I felt there was redemption for many of the characters and I felt quite hopeful that things would sort themselves out for the best. I really enjoyed this book and found myself marking bits as I read that really resonated with me and that I could really relate to. There was a rawness here about the reality of human emotions and interactions that was quite moving and relatable.
Profile Image for Ralph Hampson.
96 reviews1 follower
April 17, 2017
I bought this book for $5 at the coop bookshop but would have happily paid the full price. A wry, insightful piece, unpicking the everyday and exposing the human fault lines which exist in all of us, much to our shame ...
Profile Image for Mon.
243 reviews5 followers
September 24, 2016
So many times while I was reading this i was like 'wow same' but unironically because it was so Australian and excellent. this book was so fresh, engaging and lowkey ♥
Profile Image for Rebecca.
226 reviews19 followers
January 8, 2020
I should admit I have not really watched any of Debra Oswald’s television series.

But, this was a perfect holiday read. A cast of characters are wound up, after the suicide-attempt made by Sullivan Moss. The man is a red hot mess, who sets himself the altruistic task of donating a kidney.

As the story unfolds with humourless sex, dog walks and inter generational family twists that keep the reader cheering (or wincing) along.

I did enjoy this book. Great holiday read.
Profile Image for Susan C.
200 reviews
March 18, 2021
Such a roller coaster of a book, at any one time your head is in the clouds, dizzy with joy, and at other times your heart is in your mouth as you wonder if the ‘little guy’ is going to make it. The little guy in question being Sullivan, a man at his wits end at the start of the book and as it progresses he finds joy, love, and purpose in life only for it to crash again. Fortunately it does have a very satisfactory ending and I am left with the eternal wondering of ‘what happens next’, just after the mythical ‘the end’. I often think that when the author provokes that kind of emotion, they have well and truly done their job.

I’ve read a number of Richard Glover books and wanted to explore the writings of his partner in life. Based my experience on this book, it won’t be my last.
Profile Image for Zeta Koutsandrea.
68 reviews4 followers
November 18, 2021
Very enjoyable and original. Except from the whole love drama towards the end, which wasn't really necessary...
Profile Image for Jillian.
Author 1 book
August 22, 2020
Light, easy to read but a good edit would have been useful (joke intended).
Profile Image for Bill Porter.
256 reviews
July 20, 2018
I suppose that reading a book from cover to cover with little or no apparent effort in a little less than three days could mean it was most enjoyable. It was.
Profile Image for Bruce Gargoyle.
874 reviews143 followers
February 2, 2015
Full review at https://thebookshelfgargoyle.wordpres... (Feb 6)

I received a copy of this title from the publisher via Netgalley.

Ten Second Synopsis:
Sully, a life-long underachiever, decides to make a positive contribution to the world by donating his spare kidney to a stranger. Cue shenanigans!

Apart from a definite sag in the middle, I quite enjoyed Useful. It’s a fun and unusual premise, that of random living organ donation, and one that certainly should act as a conversation starter in a country such as ours in which rates of posthumous organ donation are so low and the need for said organs so high. In fact, Oswald manages to touch on a number of rather serious issues in a jocular fashion in this tome. There’s Sully’s obvious mental health problems, with depression, suicide attempts and alcoholism. There’s relationship break-up and its effects on children. And then of course, there’s the issue of re-homing pets whose owners have died.

Useful has an undeniably Australian feel to the humour and events in the story, which was something I welcomed. There’s a sense of laid-backed-ness that you get with many Australian novels that I really delight in. It makes book reading a bit like listening in to the gossipy talk at a backyard barbeque, and the male main character in this one also gives the humour a blokey feel, which I found quite refreshing.

Sully is (by design) an impossibly likeable but flawed character. He is undeniably charming (in a genuine, self-deprecating way) and it is this trait that has caused most of the drama in his life to date. I can’t really resist a tale of redemption told with humour and authenticity with a bit of quirk on the side, and Useful delivers on each of these elements. Unfortunately, the plot does slow down in the middle, round about the time Sully’s ex-acquaintance from Hollywood arrives on the scene, and this slowing did effect my overall enjoyment of the book.

Sagging aside though, this should appeal if you’re looking for some contemporary fiction with a bit of a medical twist and one very darling dog.

Profile Image for Lynette.
44 reviews
January 25, 2015
I received this as part of a Penguin Books Australia Competition.
It is a good read. It uses the POV style but is always clear as to who's POV it is.
A good couple of twists and turns keeps the story interesting.

Sully has decided his lifestyle has made his life useless and after unsuccessfully attempting to commit suicide decides to donate a kidney as a way of making his life useful. The story tells of how he tries to turn his life around and the impact that has on new and old friends. A story that makes you feel better about life and the continual struggle to make the right decisions for you and others.
Profile Image for Gabrielle.
229 reviews9 followers
January 28, 2015

I usually love mental health related fiction but this was unreadable for me. The writing style was awkward and forced and all the characters were boring and not fleshed out. The whole first half was a struggle and I was so bored that I could not go on.

I alsoI really felt that she really just told and didn't snow, as if we were simple children unable to discern what would be happening unless she expressly wrote without metaphor or vivid description.
Profile Image for Catherine.
210 reviews7 followers
February 18, 2015
On the surface, this book delivers only what it promises: a telling of a story about a charming underachiever. And yet, through Oswald's deft writing, you fall in love with this flawed, failing, depressed man and his cast of friends and characters. I read the last half in a long episode - I could not put it down. I so thoroughly enjoyed this tale, and the beautiful characters, and the crazy things they got up to. Relatable, funny, charming, poignant. I recommend wholeheartedly.
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12 reviews3 followers
February 7, 2015
Amazing book, as I knew it would be coming from the writer of one of my favourite shows. This book shows you even to fictional character how precious time is. Really wish you weren't left hanging at the end though, maybe a sequel is to come?!
June 5, 2015
A good read from a fellow Aussie. In interesting topic and scenario that certainly was a nice and easy read. I found my attention wandering though as it got a bit ho hum toward the end. Not a mind blowing story but one worth picking up and reading if you are after something easy and light.
95 reviews2 followers
March 7, 2015
Quirky, easy to read, liked the soft ending which balances the unsettling aspects of story; 'build' towards rehabilitation well done; superficiality of characters at times grates - but probably is supposed to
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