The Cube People is the debut novel by Ottawa author Christian McPherson. It tells the tale of Colin MacDonald, an “everyman” who is just trying to get by. The interesting aspect of MacDonald is that he is not the typical “cube dweller” who simply gets up in the morning, goes to work, endures his bizarre co-workers and then comes home. He has a desire for more in life – he wants to be a writer. Unfortunately, rejection letter after rejection letter keeps him from ditching his lackluster and soul-crushing government job to fulfill his dream of being a published author (and being a rich author wouldn’t hurt either). To complicate matters further, his life with his wife is rocky as she’s hit a time in her life where she is desperate for a child (any child!) and unfortunately the two have to battle fertility issues in their quest to become parents.
McPherson’s writing is clear and straightforward, but not simplistic. The intelligent reader will see that this is more than a quick read, with interesting symbolism (particularly with regard to his “book within a book”), insightful messages and relatable characters.
In fact, McPherson’s characters are what make the book truly shine. He has a remarkable ability to bring characters and their relationships alive. Though some characters (particularly in the co-worker department) have extreme personality quirks – they are never unbelievable in my opinion. Not to be forgotten is MacDonald’s main relationship in life – that with his wife. McPherson is able to depict a marriage that is true and loving but never perfect or without flaws. The dialogue between MacDonald and his wife is realistic and fitting for who these characters are. The depiction of MacDonald’s wife’s fight to become a mother is particularly brilliant.
I read this book in a matter of days, and were it not for my own 9-5 job, I would have finished it sooner. Interestingly enough, my husband picked up this book after I read it and finished it himself in about two days. He enjoyed it and thought that it was very funny. McPherson’s humour may not be for everyone, but we both loved it. I particularly liked how this book gave a sincere and honest peek into the male mind – what women believe they are thinking in certain moments is definitely true.
I believe that this would be an interesting (and must) read for any public servant, aspiring writer, individuals struggling with infertility or anyone who likes quirky characters. Those who live in Ottawa may like the book just for the enjoyment of recognizing certain local landmarks. I have already started recommending it to individuals I know.
Two thumbs up!
I had asked McPherson for a copy of The Cube People to review here, as I accurately suspected from reading summaries online that it would be a book that I would enjoy. However, the hidden gem in the package McPherson sent was The Sun Has Forgotten Where I Live, which McPherson kindly included on his own. I happened to pick up this book of poetry first, and actually had a great deal of trouble putting it down in order to move on to the book.
McPherson’s poems are like his novel in tone and style – by this I mean that what comes across as simple prose is always something more when you take the time to consider his chosen words and how he presents them. It is then that his true philosophical self is laid bare and his poems are captivating. However, given that his poems are fairly easy to follow (but you can delve deeper if that’s your inclination), I think that this collection of poetry could truly make for interesting reading for anyone. A teenage boy might enjoy the language McPherson uses, while a middle aged woman might appreciate his questions and musings on life and the world.
This collection of poetry is definitely worth acquiring, and if I were a high school or university English instructor, I would go so far as to include it in my lesson plans.