If you’re after a novel that will reassure you of the predictability of love, Alissa Nutting’s contribution probably isn’t for you. It has been a while since I encountered a story so delightfully bizarre that still has something very important to say: a human’s capacity for love is, quite possibly, boundless.
Made for Love opens with Hazel, our slightly strained hero, witnessing her father’s first encounter with Diane – his brand new sex doll. This sets the tone nicely for a novel intent on showing that how and why we love is not always possible to comprehend. The only limit is Nutting’s imagination – and that means there isn’t really a limit at all.
Perhaps the best example of Nutting letting her mind run wild is Jasper. Introduced as an apparently heartless con-man, his storyline takes an abrupt turn when a traumatic incident leaves him with a romantic and sexual fixation on…dolphins? Although interspecies love is not the most common of subject matters, it barely feels out of place in Nutting’s world. Instead we quite literally go with the flow as Jasper plans how to kidnap his beau from the local aquarium.
But, as I said earlier, Hazel is the hero of Made for Love, and her unusual plight keeps us stumbling along in bewilderment to the last pages. Having spent years married to the low-key psychotic Byron, founder of tech juggernaut Gogol, she’s finally had enough and decided to seek refuge with her father in his trailer park. This does not prove to be an easy transition, not least because of Byron’s ability to track her every move (and even, it turns out, her every thought).
When it comes down to it, it is the father-daughter relationship that proves most compelling, even when having to compete with the novel’s wackier depictions of human affection. The gruff interactions between Hazel and her dad often give way to a begrudging tenderness, which brilliantly captures how family members dance around the fact that they are more alike than they wish to be.
In the least, Made for Love is a book that will make you laugh. But, at its heights, it’s a book that will make you think – about technology, sex, family, betrayal and, of course, love.
Alissa Nutting; Made For Love; Penguin/Windmill, paperback, 320pp.
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