(NOTE: In the spirit of Muscle Memory's body swapping theme, the parts of my brain have all switched their usual roles for this review.)
This book spoke to me.
As the most important aspect of the brain, I am the keeper of identity. Steve Lowe's handling of identity in this story made quite an impression on me. The premise alone, that of a husband who awakes one morning to find himself inhabiting his wife's body, brings forward the debate over whether or not we are more than our physical selves.
Billy Gillespie has little time to ponder this existential query, though, as he is preoccupied with the loss of his male genetalia and the corpse lying in bed that was him but is now apparently his dead wife, Tina. Finding some antifreeze sitting in the kitchen next to last night's empty beers, Billy connects the dots and discovers his other half's murderous intent that backfired on her overnight.
Sharing in the general confusion of the situation is a good portion of the town, including neighboring best friends Tucker and Julia, whom are also having out-of-their-own-body-and-into-another experiences.
I found most humorous their farmer friend Edgar's switch, which has placed him inside the body of a sheep. This confirms for some townspeople their suspicions about his relationship with his animals, regardless of how often Edgar bahs out denials of such allegations.
Before he can decide what to do with his dead body, the whole town is overrun by G-Men asking questions and keeping a watchful eye on Billy and his friends. Everyone has theories as to what's really going on, from a government conspiracy to alien intervention to God's wrath, even.
Billy hopes answers to this nightmare will manifest soon. In the meantime, I am kept entertained watching him figure out Tina's nightgown flap so his son Little Rico can breastfeed, a difficult enough task for a (wo)man still adjusting to his female body.
Billy's inner turmoil over the events leading up to his transformation is at the heart of Muscle Memory. Acting as the narrator gives us a first-hand view of his struggle to cope with the violent physical change he is experiencing.
At first, he is still mostly like his old self, a blue collar beer drinker just trying to get by in life. It is only upon seeing the aftermath of Tina's plot to murder him that he begins to see the true nature of his relationship with her. He was too busy drowning himself in alcohol every night to notice how birthing their baby had affected her.
Fortunately for Billy, he has a good friend to turn to in Tucker, who is also adjusting to residing inside his wife Julia's body. He may not be the sharpest tool in the shed but, given the circumstances, he stays optimistic, enjoying his wife's parts along the way. Julia can forgive him for fooling around with her body, she is only now understanding just how hard it can be to keep Tucker's testosterone fueled body from getting erections.
Each character learns to deal with their predicament and copes well with their new bodies. Edgar has no reservations about munching on the grass outside Billy's house, his body knows he needs the nourishment and his mind quickly shifts into accepting this. Tucker, on the hand, has to learn the hard way what drinking beer does to his wife's stomach and bowel movements.
Billy has the hardest time adjusting, he has to do it alone. His wife and his original body are gone. Deceased. This leaves him feeling like the exposed pit of a peach, the skin and fruit shell that was his identity forever missing and leaving him to rot in his own murderer's body. He's dead on the outside as well as the inside. Perhaps he'll be able to find himself again and start life anew, if not for his own sake than for the sake of hungry Little Rico.
Goddamn you fatherfucking, daughters-of-bastards! She's a he, he's a she, and he's a sheep!
I was trying to figure out exactly how the title of this book correlates with the story and I think I got it. It's right there in the first couple'a pages. Billy wakes up to take a piss and can't locate his dick in his wife's nightgown so he pops a squat to relieve himself. His actions upon waking are unconscious, the muscles reacting not to thought, but to memory instead.
It's a routine so ingrained in his psyche that he does it on autopilot, a lack of penis and testicles not really bothering him too much until his thoughts take over again.
The dialogue is spot on. It sounds real, it sounds like these kinds of people exist and this is how they'd deal with such a crazy conundrum. The gender stereotypes they've joked about before are beginning to surface, and they're learning just how guilty they all are of creating them.
But these are Salt of the Earth types, and I think they do a much better job at dealing with the pile of shit dropped onto them than most people would.
Everyone in this book, I think, got at least a little thrill in having a new, foreign body to test drive, scary as the prospect could seem for some. I know I'd not shy away at taking a turn masturbating in a female body to see how it feels. Wouldn't you?
Argh, now I feel stupid for opening my big mouth at all. I'm a plot person and this style/theme stuff is fucking confusing the shit outta me.
Fuck this review switchy thingy! Id out.
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