The first line of the acknowledgements for this book reads:
No book as weird as this one sees the light of day without a team of weirdos who believe in it.
I can only imagine the accuracy of this statement as this book is weird and I love that and desperately want to hang with that team.
I’ve said before that I love a bizarre and lengthy title so as soon as I saw this one, I was very intrigued. The cover got me a step closer and when I read the synopsis, I was all in.
When the final four women in competition for an aloof, if somewhat sleazy, bachelor’s heart arrive on a mysterious island in the Pacific Northwest, they mentally prepare themselves for another week of extreme sleep deprivation, invasive interviews, and of course, the salacious drama that viewers nationwide tune in to eagerly devour. Each woman came on “The Catch” for her own reasons—brand sponsorships, followers, and yes, even love—and they’ve all got their eyes steadfastly trained on their respective prizes.
Enter Patricia, a temperamental, but woefully misunderstood local, living alone in the dark, verdant woods and desperate to forge a connection of her own. As the contestants perform for the cameras that surround them, Patricia watches from her place in the shadows, a queer specter haunting the bombastic display of heterosexuality before her. But when the cast and crew at last make her acquaintance atop the island’s tallest and most desolate peak, they soon realize that if they’re to have any hope of making it to the next Elimination Event, they’ll first have to survive the night.
A whirlwind romp careening toward a last-girl-standing conclusion and a scathing indictment of contemporary American media culture, Patricia Wants to Cuddle is also a love story: between star-crossed lesbians who rise above their intolerant town, a deeply ambivalent woman and her budding self-actualization, and a chosen family of misfit islanders forging community against all odds.
Let me start by saying that I am not a Bachelor/Bachelorette devotee. I watched precisely one season (21) of the Bachelor and maybe one and a half of Bachelor in Paradise before vowing to never go back. However, I have also watched four seasons of UnREAL and I would watch four more if I could. I feel like the latter equipped me to never have to watch the former because, well, it’s gross.
In the beginning of Patricia Wants to Cuddle, we meet up with the final four contestants and “The Catch” himself. They’re traveling to a remote island located in the Salish Sea where they are inching towards unveiling the final two contestants to set up for the finale of the show. All the contestants are differently motivated and the prize husband is really anything but, but it’s a competition and they’re all in. We get to know some of the crew for interesting backstory (enter the strong UnREAL comparisons) and a few locals to set the tone.
Hot off finishing Stephen Graham Jones’s My Heart Is a Chainsaw, my final girl vibes are strong and it was fun to have them spill over into this book as well. For those unaware, the final girl is a trope in horror movies, referring to the female protagonist who remains alive at the end of the film, after the other characters have been killed, when she is usually placed in a position to confront the killer. I became way better versed in final girls thanks to Jones and I love the parallel that Samantha Allen drew between horror and dating reality tv.
This isn’t traditional horror because the spirit of the book is truly kind of zany. I saw one review describe it as madcap and the word stuck in my head the whole way through. It is violent, be warned, and it is shocking in parts, but the hilarity of the overall story tempers the brutality.
My only super tiny complaint? I wish we’d gotten to know Patricia a little better.
Fans of fun, abstract and kind of out there contemporary fiction will dig Patricia Wants to Cuddle, especially if they’re feeling a Pacific Northwest setting.
Patricia Wants to Cuddle was my first exposure to Allen’s writing, but I’m excited to have picked up a copy of her book Real Queer America from my library and plan to read more of her work. Patricia Wants to Cuddle will be published on June 28th and is available for preorder now. I give great thanks for NetGalley and Zando Projects for putting an advanced copy in my hands.