The Last Will & Testament of Zelda McFigg by Betsy Robinson

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“Also, I have never been anybody’s favorite, and this last fact, in my opinion, is an injustice of the highest order perpetrated by all persons I have ever met.”
By God, you WILL be uncomfortable and experience moments similar to smell-o-vision, that’s how well the author describes Zelda’s sweaty condition.

Zelda McFigg ‘the early years’ at the novel’s start reminded me of an old childhood book our teacher used to read to us, Amelia Bedelia but more if she was sent to work in a seedy side of town with heroin addicts, dark alleys, rot, and sinister characters. She is disastrous and you like her for her bite but admittedly find her to be a real pain in the arse! Her inventive imagination is the only thing that keeps her alive, and maybe the truth is clay in her hands but with nothing to rely on but herself, can you blame her?  She isn’t anybody’s favorite, and maybe puts her loyalty into the least deserving people- and when she writes a memoir at 40 to set the record straight, we find it’s more crooked and hilarious. She makes me think of those delusional people who can excuse every and anything they do and can nearly convince you they are right. Having left home (what other choice did she have with a drunkard father and drug addict mother) and makes her way to a poet, who isn’t worth the adoration and does what all adults in her life have done.  Zelda seems to be born under an unlucky star, or several actually. She is everything people are horrified at the very thought of encountering, and she dares to be unapologetic about it. Zelda embraces the fractured mess she is- a liar, a compulsive over-eater, someone who is old long before her time, she is a whirlwind and wreaks havoc wherever she lands until she becomes (illegally) a teacher. Here she meets a student and gets much closer than she should. She falls in love with him in a strange way, championing the boy to reach for greater heights. Will he too abandon and use her? This novel is cringe-worthy, and yet being a satire you can’t help but laugh at the absurd. I seesawed between cheering Zelda on to being disturbed by her. With her weight, and body odor condition, her aggressive manner, her delusions- she is the sort of woman you avoid on the bus. There is something scary about her, something repulsive but underneath that stink there is an admirable fight and spirit. You have got to be drawn to quirk and the outrageous to enjoy this story, which I am. She gets under your skin like a parasite, and you find yourself repulsed and yet can’t stop watching her antics. What happens with the student when he is ‘of age’ is awkward but being the satirical story I wasn’t as bothered. It’s funny how when sexes are reversed (an older man, younger woman) people are less ‘disturbed’.  Is everything that happens possible? Probably not, then again- truth is stranger than fiction. But if you can suspend the boundaries of reality- you can immerse yourself in a zany story. You may not love her, but she’s certainly one hell of an oddball character.

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