Jared Stone has an inoperable brain tumour and a wife and two teenage daughters to support. He is determined that they will be provided for after his death so takes the unusual option of trying to sell himself on eBay. When regulations ban the sale, interested parties step out of the shadows to offer their help – in very different packages. The comedic element is strong, here the cast of would-be rescuers ranges from a nun obsessed with leading souls – and herself – to glory; a gamer; a young, narcissistic and reckless billionaire; and a TV programmer whose career hasn’t quite reached the stellar heights he had envisioned it would attain.
The outcome is that the family Stone’s lives are filmed to entertain the thrill-seeking, sentimental prime-time television audience. This theme is particularly well done, stripping back the sanctimonious litany of `the public has a right to know’ to expose the self-seeking, amoral grab for ratings. Individual family members are clearly delineated and Vlahos sets this almost forensic observation against a running commentary of the efforts of Jared Stone’s would-be saviours. There is some moral certitude here, too-a young gamer rallies her fellow players to help the family, at first financially, until that proves impossible, then practically.
The final protagonist is the tumour itself: this jars and even irritates at first, but then provides a reliable commentary on Jared’s memories and relationships when he is unable to recall these for himself.
There is humour in the narrative often turned against big corporations who manipulate people in extremis for their own callous ends. There is pathos, too and a detectable amount of bathos to complete the set. The narrative impact is rather uneven in the first third of the book but comes more into its own in subsequent pages and is worth sticking with for its surreal qualities and its social comment.