Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Useful” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.62  ·  Rating details ·  857 ratings  ·  139 reviews
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
Paperback, 320 pages
Published January 28th 2015 by Viking: Penguin
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.62  · 
Rating details
 ·  857 ratings  ·  139 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Useful

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 l
Jan 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
“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 reco
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 i
Feb 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 02, 2015 rated it really liked it

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 i
Jan 14, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: library
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
Feb 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
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,
Michael Robotham
Jan 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Carol -  Reading Writing and Riesling
Jan 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
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 pre
Shelleyrae at Book'd Out

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
Jan 09, 2015 rated it liked it
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
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 h
Dec 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
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 o
Jun 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
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 ...more
Ralph Hampson
Apr 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
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 ...
Sep 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best
I absolutely fucking adored this.
Sep 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ♥ ...more
Jan 08, 2020 rated it liked it
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.
Aug 22, 2020 rated it liked it
Light, easy to read but a good edit would have been useful (joke intended).
Bill Porter
Jul 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
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.
Bruce Gargoyle
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 count
Jan 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
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 tha
Jan 27, 2015 rated it did not like it

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.
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. ...more
Sarah Portelli
Feb 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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?! ...more
Bookish Enchantment (Katherine Quirke)
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.
Lynne Benton
Feb 24, 2015 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Jenny Hatton-Mahon
Finding your purpose

A selfish and self-absorbed man can't see that his life serves any purpose. This is the story of his hit and miss search for the reason of his existence and of finding purpose in the most unlikely of places and with the most unlikely of people.
May 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Loved this from the beginning. It was impossible not to love Sullivan from the first chapter - a funny, poignant, Sydney based story where the narrative weaves effortlessly between all the characters. I want a sequel!
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Honeybee
  • All Our Shimmering Skies
  • Flesh Wounds
  • The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart
  • Liar
  • Un-cook Yourself: A Ratbag's Rules for Life
  • The Coconut Children
  • From Where I Fell
  • Bruny
  • Jasper Jones
  • Hope Close
  • The Survivors
  • De verwarde cavia
  • Goodwood
  • 50 Risks to Take With Your Kids: A Guide to Building Resilience and Independence in the First 10 Years
  • Victory on Gallipoli : and other what-ifs of Australian history
  • Holidays
  • The Aftermath
See similar books…
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 over

Related Articles

  Some people love books. Some people fall in love. And some people love books about falling in love. Every month our team sorts through...
11 likes · 1 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“From what Natalie could observe, by middle age, every person's life had rolled some distance downhill, even if it was a very gentle slope, coming to rest at a place of disappointment. Some spheres of an individual's life might have gone spectacularly well but there would always be an obstinate slab of disappointment in another department - a stalled career, inability to have kids, a dismal marriage, whatever.” 0 likes
More quotes…