Browne, S.G. Breathers: A Zombie’s Lament. Crown, 2009. ISBN 978-0767930611. pp. $
In this self-proclaimed “zom-rom-com” the undead are the sympathetic characters. Victims of trauma are unexpectedly and unexplainably becoming “reanimated.” The zombies, all at different stages of acceptance, ability and decomposition, are outcasts of society. Their second class citizen treatment ranges from harassment (assault and limb-stealing) to SPCA imprisonment for curfew violations, with termination imminent if a human family member, or Breather, doesn’t bail them out.
Some cope by meeting in AA-styled group sessions. In Undead Anonymous, Andy develops a crush on the lovely Rita (a suicide victim) and meets several unique and interesting individuals, including the charismatic Ray, a self-sufficient zombie who refuses to be disenfranchised and rallies the others for equal rights for the reanimated.
This very funny satire manages to not take itself too seriously without getting campy. Browne deftly balances humor with pathos, and gore with romance. The vivid writing flows, delivering a satisfying pace and many amusing scenes. Characterizations are strong, and the voice steady throughout. My one criticism is that there is a hair of predictability to the story, but the ending still didn’t play out exactly as I thought.
The opening draws the reader in immediately: Andy comes to in his parents kitchen, suspecting he has just killed them. From there, Browne delivers a backstory that relates what life is like as a zombie that one could analogize to being a minority, gay, or even, a teen–others tend to make snap judgments about members of these communities and may be intolerant to varying degrees.